The Ontario government announced it’s taking additional measures to protect commercial tenants from being locked out or having their assets seized by their landlords due to the negative impacts of COVID-19.
On Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced his government is introducing legislation to temporarily ban commercial evictions of businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance by making changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act.
If passed, the legislation would reverse evictions that occurred on or after June 3, 2020. The government said it intends to bring this legislation forward as soon as possible.
Earlier this month, applications opened for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which is a multi-level partnership between the Ontario and federal government that provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50% of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May and June 2020. The tenant is then responsible for covering up to 25% of the rent so that up to 75% of the rent is covered for the landlord.
Through CECRA, Ontario is committing $241 million for small businesses, while the federal government is providing more than $900 million in support.
“We need everyone working together to overcome COVID-19,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Commercial tenants who can pay their rent, must do so. Landlords should work with their tenants to come to an agreement and use this joint program. Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we need them to flourish.”
If passed, the proposed legislation would make it illegal to evict a commercial tenant until August 31, 2020.
“Ensuring the immediate future of our small businesses is critical to helping our economy recover and rebound,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “A moratorium on commercial evictions will bring stability to our small businesses and the employees and families they support. Their success is Ontario’s success.”
This announcement comes as Premier Ford, on multiple occasions, threatened action against commercial landlords – who he referred to as “greedy” – for refusing to participate in federal rent relief measures.
The provincial government previously put a temporary ban on residential evictions to help residents struggling during the COVID pandemic, but until now had yet to take any steps to protect commercial tenants.