When the pandemic began to hit the province of Ontario, many families found themselves in a situation that was both unexpected and distressing. Increased unemployment began to affect families longer than anticipated and their ability to ensure the payment of all expenses each month became more difficult. In addition to the support measures provided by the federal government, which guaranteed a minimum monthly income, the provincial government announced and made legislative changes to the Landlords and Tenants Act in order to protect families during this time. The changes addressed the temporary suspension of legal proceedings in reference to eviction for non-payment of rent. This legislative change was a relief for some tenants but would leave landlords in a morally complex situation. In some instances, tenants began to take advantage of the landlords and this change in the law could be seen as reversing the normal order of things – the owners of the goods no longer had the right to demand payment for their use and to guarantee the maintenance of the same.
It seemed appropriate for us to understand the perception of the Government of Ontario, namely through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, regarding the current situation generated by the maintenance of a legislative change and its impact on the economic sector of social well-being. Melissa Diakoumeas, Media Relations / Spokesperson, answered our questions, recalling the steps that were taken more than a year ago.
Milénio Stadium: To help with the difficult financial situation many families were facing, the Ontario government made changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act to protect tenants. How has this past year been in terms of litigation and tenants? Is there understanding on both sides, given the situation in which we are living?
Melissa Diakoumeas: From the onset of COVID-19, the government has introduced a number of measures to protect and support tenants, and have continued to encourage landlords and tenants to work together as they have been. These supports include a rent freeze for the entirety of 2021, an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to promote rent repayment agreements to maintain tenancies, and we provided municipalities with $765 million which can be used to fund rent banks and utility banks and provide emergency loans to those most in need.
MS: With your experience, what do you think may happen as soon as this period of exception ends, namely rent deferment?
MD: Last week we issued an emergency order to temporarily pause the enforcement of residential evictions so no one is forced to leave their homes while a stay at home order is in force.
MS: What have been the biggest complaints from both sides that have come to your attention?
MD: These are extraordinary measures in extraordinary times. Our government recognizes and values the efforts of tenants and landlords who continue to work together during these unprecedented times.
MS: How should a tenant or landlord who feels the need to ask for help, proceed? What steps should be taken?
MD:Should tenants need help to pay their rent, they are encouraged to contact their local service manager about what housing supports may be available to them. Tenants can visit www.ontario.ca/page/find-your-local-service-manager to find contact information for their local service manager.