Ontario bans commercial evictions for some businesses

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario will ban commercial evictions for businesses struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, a move many tenants and small business organizations have spent months lobbying for.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that the government will implement a moratorium on commercial evictions between June 3 and Aug. 31 for small businesses that qualify for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. Companies that have seen a 70 per cent decline in revenues due to the pandemic and pay no more than $50,000 in rent each month are eligible for assistance.

The program, which was initially unveiled in April, will see the government provide forgivable loans covering 50 per cent of rent to property owners if they reduce rent by at least 75 per cent in April, May and June. Landlords and tenants will be on the hook for 25 per cent of the rent each.

However, participation in the program has been slow. Ford said on Monday that around 7,000 landlords in Ontario had signed up to receive rent assistance.

“You have to be fair and help out everyone, but we still heard about some landlords who didn’t get the message,” Ford said at a daily press conference on Monday.

“That’s why I’ve ordered legislation to ban commercial evictions for those who qualify for the commercial rent relief program.”

Several provinces have already implemented similar bans, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has been calling on provinces across the country to halt commercial evictions since March, as many tenants struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released Monday, the CFIB commended the provincial government’s commercial eviction ban.

“We are relieved that no more struggling small businesses will find locks on their doors because their landlords are unwilling or unable to participate in the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program,” the CFIB said in statement.

“We will continue to urge the provincial and federal governments to make much-needed improvements to CECRA to either make it easier for landlords to apply, or to pass the financial relief directly to small business tenants.”

The CFIB, which represents 110,000 members with small and medium-sized businesses across Canada, has been pushing the government to allow tenants to access the CECRA program in situations where landlords choose not to apply. They also recommend the government expand the Canada Emergency Business Account program, which currently provides $40,000 interest-free loans to qualifying businesses, part of which is forgivable.

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