Ontario tenants will have to make the difficult decision of whether or not to pay their rent on April 1. As the coronavirus pandemic persists, a desperate call for the province to enforce a rent freeze is gaining momentum, especially among renters who have lost their jobs or are faced with looming unemployment.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, as many as half of the renters in Canada will not be able to pay their bills if they lose their jobs or if they continue on a paycheque-to-paycheque basis. It is therefore not surprising that a number of Ontarians have already committed to withholding their payments.
Advocacy groups for both tenants and landlords have been urging the provincial government to offer some form of relief, but so far, all that has been promised is a moratorium on evictions. Many details, including the extent of financial support to be offered, remain up in the air. Given these circumstances, it seems that a rent strike is in the cards.
Premier Doug Ford briefly addressed the issue at a press conference on Thursday, assuring tenants that they will be protected during these troubling times. His full statement was as follows:
"If you have a choice between paying rent or putting food on your table, you’re putting food on your table. And the government of Ontario will make sure no one gets evicted. We stand by that, and we’re going to make sure we take care of those people. On the other note, please, if you have a job do not, I repeat do not, take advantage of this. This is for the people that are most in need, that just cannot physically pay rent."
"But if you have a job, then we expect you to pay rent. This is for the people that just can’t afford it. So please, you know, I heard there was a petition going around ‘just don’t pay rent,’ that’s wrong. That’s hurting people across the board. We’re standing up for the tenants here, so please don’t take advantage of it. And if you can’t pay rent, and you’re just in an absolute crisis, then you don’t have to pay rent.”
At face value, Ford's message might give the impression that no one is obligated to pay their rent next week. But tenants must not be mistaken: the only people who "don't have to pay" are only those who absolutely cannot afford to.
Currently, there is no legislation that will support tenants who simply want to avoid paying. Those who do not pay their rent now will eventually have to pay it later. In no way is Ford's option a freebie.
Despite an $82 billion aid package from the federal government, a 75 percent wage subsidy for businesses, and deferred mortgage payments for homeowners, there is still no formal support for renters. For now, just like Ford's message, the rules for rent payments remain "vague, non-committal and non-binding."
Photo by PxHere
Support us on Patreon
Please consider donating on Patreon to support us in our initiatives!