COVID-19: Residential Tenancies
On March 27, 2017, the Alberta Provincial Government announced new restriction on landlords in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to protect tenants, many of whom are facing reduced incomes through layoffs or cuts to their employment hours.
As it is not client-specific, this document is merely information and not legal advice. Before implementing any steps, we urge you to seek legal advice to confirm that those steps are appropriate at the current time and in light of your specific circumstances. Our main office contacts for this topic are at the bottom of this document.
The restrictions apply to all Albertan traditional residential tenancies, as defined in the Alberta Residential Tenancies Act, and mobile home tenancies, as defined in the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act.
The restrictions are outlined below:
- Tenants cannot be evicted on the basis of non-payment of rent before May 1, 2020.
- This includes the eviction of tenants who have not paid rent for the last few months.
- Civil enforcement evictions will be suspended until May 1, 2020.
- This includes the suspension of those civil enforcement proceedings that are currently underway for tenants who have not paid rent in the last few months.
- Landlords cannot increase rental payments for as long as Alberta’s State of Public Emergency remains in effect.
- Any notice of rental increases that were recently provided to tenants will be suspended until the State of Public Emergency is lifted.
- Landlords cannot charge late fees between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020.
- After June 30, 2020, landlords cannot retroactively seek to collect these fees.
Landlords and tenants are being encouraged to work together to establish payment plans for the duration of the pandemic. Tenants who cooperate with the landlord’s attempts for a meaningful and reasonable payment plan will continue to enjoy the eviction protection for the duration of the public emergency (that is, beyond the May 1, 2020 deadline). If there is no agreement in place, landlords must demonstrate they made reasonable efforts to enter into a meaningful payment plan. Landlords who do not take this step to develop a payment plan will face restrictions on applying for orders to terminate a tenancy and obtain possession of the property.
THE RESIDENTIAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION SERVICE (RTDRS):
The RTDRS is the tribunal tasked with hearing any matters under the Residential Tenancies Act. Any related updates are being posted to the RTDRS’ website and should be reviewed for changes.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all hearings by the RTDRS are being conducted over the phone. The RTDRS office is closed to the public and all applications must be submitted online through the RTDRS’ e-filing service.
The RTDRS office is currently prioritizing applications dealing with the possession and termination of tenancies. As a result, while applications for “non-urgent” matters (for example, a claim for damages or the return of a security deposit), are still being accepted for filing, these matters are not currently being scheduled for a hearing.
During the month of April, landlords can still seek an order for termination of a tenancy, where the reason for eviction is unrelated to non-payment of rent and/or utilities. For example, the Provincial Government has stated that the protections outlined above do not apply if a tenant has committed a crime or caused damage to the landlord’s property.
ADVICE FOR LANDLORDS AND TENANTS:
- Attempt to establish a payment plan or deferral with your tenants. Where a tenant is unwilling to agree to a reasonable payment plan, the RTDRS will consider this in any post-April, 2020 applications for eviction.
- Take advantage of government-provided financial supports – this includes the utility payment deferral for tenants and the bank and credit union deferrals for landlords.
- Know your rights and obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act and the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act, so parties can be aware of what to expect once these restrictions are lifted.
For more information on these topics or any other matters please contact one of the below lawyers from Bryan & Company LLP or access our General Litigation group here and it would be our pleasure to assist.
|ROBYN L. GRAHAM