REGINA -- A Regina landlord filed notices to 18 people to vacate the properties he manages, after the province removed a moratorium on evictions.

Shawn Schlechter, the owner of Shawn’s Property Management, said he has already served almost half of the tenants that owe rent money with the notices.

A moratorium on non-urgent evictions was introduced at the start of the pandemic, but the Office of Residential Tenancies began accepting non-urgent eviction applications again on Tuesday.

The Saskatchewan Landlords Association is encouraging tenants and landlords to work together and explore payment options before evicting, but said the moratorium caused many landlords to lose revenue.

“For people that who deliberately withheld rent, it really impacted out our ability to deliver services during the pandemic,” Cameron Choquette, the Saskatchewan Landlords Association’s Executive Officer, said.

“For instance, if a tenant couldn’t pay their rent, if they come up with a payment plan we would not be evicting those tenants, we would honour their payment plan, but these are just for the people that haven’t payed us any rent,” Schlechter said.

“The majority of people do phone us with a payment plan and give us a good solid reason why they couldn’t pay their rent, and that’s all we really need”

In order for a non-urgent eviction to go through, a notice to vacate must be served and an eviction hearing must take place before a tenant may be formally evicted from a rental property.

“If they don’t contact us, of course we have no choice but to go with the full eviction,” Schlechter said.

Those on the other side of the coin feel it’s unfair to evict residents that may have lost work because of the pandemic.

“This is requiring full disruption of households who are very vulnerable,” Ruth, a volunteer with the Renters of Saskatoon and Area, said.

Ruth was not willing to give her full name, but said she knows of several instances of families moving in with others in order to afford rent, as the pandemic forced people out of work. She said the province needs to increase benefits for vulnerable tenants so they can pay what’s owed or hire better legal aid for eviction hearings.

“There just is no means provided by the government to pay for what the landlords want,” Ruth said.

The Office of Residential Tenancies expects to have information next week on the number of eviction applications submitted since the suspension on residential evictions was lifted.

“The Ministry of Social Services offers a number of programs that provide vulnerable citizens with financial support and help them maintain or acquire safe affordable housing,” the province said in a statement.

Those include the Saskatchewan income support program launched in 2019 and the Saskatchewan housing benefit created in April 2020

Schlechter says landlords would rather work with tenants than evict them and he is disappointed the government stopped non-urgent evictions a few months ago, because he expects a backlog of applications to come through.