Pro-business advocates in Ottawa are calling on the province to ban commercial evictions for six months to give renters a break from the hardships caused by COVID-19.
In March, the Ford government put a halt to all new residential evictions. Now, the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas has written a letter to the province asking for the same for commercial tenants.
“I’ve heard of a couple of cases — I can’t say it’s widespread,” said Mark Kaluski, chair of the coalition.
“Who knows how many more evictions are going to start happening. We’ll see in the next few days.”
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce also put out a statement Friday asking for a two-week moratorium on evictions.
Federal program not enough
Kaluski said the recently announced federal rent subsidy package leaves too much power in the hands of landlords, because they’re the ones who have to apply for the funding.
His group wants more leverage for tenants.
“If I’m a landlord and all of a sudden I’m looking at the prospect of three or six months of no rent, then I might be much more interested in going to apply for the government program,” he said.
Kaluski added he worries the law isn’t on the side of tenants, because many landlords ask for a personal guarantee for leases.
“Even if your business goes under, they can come back and ask you for money personally — from your house, from your savings,” he said.
“They still would have that ability. So it’s keeping a lot of people awake at night.”
Landlords say they’re hurting too
Mayor Jim Watson tweeted Thursday that he was hearing of eviction notices in the Glebe, and urged landlords and businesses owners to find solutions.
At a media conference Friday, Watson also reminded landlords who’ve applied for the city’s property tax hardship deferral program that they’ll have to pass on the savings to their tenants — or they’ll be deemed ineligible and be forced to pay the money back.
According to Dean Karakasis, however, tenants aren’t the only ones worrying.
“In the end, the landlords are going to have to still accept all the costs on insurance on taxes, on those facility operations,” said Karakasis, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Ottawa.
“When the other businesses can’t help cover the cost of the revenue model, the landlords are the ones that are going to be taking it, in terms of the biggest hit.”
Karakasis said his organization wouldn’t support an eviction ban, and if evictions are taking place, there’s a likely a reason that goes beyond COVID-19.
“You’d have to look at this on a case-by-case basis, in terms of [finding] solutions for the dilemma that we’re all faced with,” he said.