Canada's four western provincial governments have a mixed approach as to whether to ban rental evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, according to an analysis by Western Investor.
The responses can be summed up: “yes, certainly” in B.C.; “yes,” in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 'no way" in Alberta.
On March 25, B.C. introduced the most sweeping legislation in North America to protect tenants who may not be able to make the rent due to job losses during the pandemic. The province has ended virtually all evictions, will pay $500 per month directly to landlords to top up rent payments, and has frozen all rent increases for at least three months. This could leave landlords in the lurch if tenants don't pay their rent, according to landlord advocates.
In Manitoba, the government has postponed eviction hearings and frozen rent increases, effective April 1, according to Premier Brian Pallister and Finance Minister Scott Fielding. “Taking these steps will help reduce financial uncertainty and worry for Manitobans who face challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pallister. “Manitobans who have been laid off, are working less or are in self isolation shouldn’t also have to worry about making rent payments and keeping a roof over their heads.”
The Saskatchewan government originally told Western Investor that it was studying the situation, but on March 26 announced that it would ban all evictions and freeze rental increases, effective March 26. “The Office of Residential Tenancies will not be accepting applications for eviction related to missed or late rent, or for other non-urgent claims,” according to a release from the province. Previous eviction orders for non-urgent matters will not be enforced, and previously scheduled hearings for non-urgent matters have been cancelled.
Alberta has no plans to freeze evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Premier Jason Kenney.
Kenney urged landlords to work with tenants but stressed that property owners must be allowed to protect themselves from law breakers and people who habitually fail to pay rent.
Kenney also called upon landlords “to do the right thing and wherever possible extend rent relief during this difficult time to their tenants.”
But he added, “It makes no economic sense for [landlords] to evict tenants for missing April rent given the effective shutdown of our economy, because who else is going to fill those units?”