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Sask. suspends evictions during COVID-19 pandemic
REGINA -- The Provincial Government says the Office of Residential Tenancies will stop accepting eviction applications for missed or late rent starting on Thursday.
Previous eviction orders for non-urgent matters won't be enforced and previously scheduled hearings for non-urgent matters are cancelled, the province said in a news release.
The ORT says it will only allow eviction hearings for urgent situations involving health or safety concerns, violence or property damage. There can also be hearings if a tenant has been locked out or a landlord isn’t providing essential services like power or water.
"For the benefit of the landlords, this does not make the rent go away, all it does is say the person cannot be evicted during this period of time," Minister of Justice Don Morgan said.
Jason Hall has been a landlord in Regina for 23 years, currently providing housing to over 100 tenants.
He says his ability to operate would be significantly harmed if a large number of tenants stopped paying their rent.
"What really happens is the service diminishes because monies that come in for rent go in different areas, go to pay a mortgage off, got to pay the taxes, insurance, but the maintenance of houses, an older house especially, is very high," Hall said.
The Saskatchewan Landlords Association says it understands the decision made by the government and has been encouraging landlords to keep tenants in their homes during the pandemic.
It would have liked to see some support for landlords announced as well.
"As the months drag on, if this pandemic continues to worsen in the province, we will have landlords that face significantly declining revenues and that puts the rental housing industry at stake," Cameron Choquette, executive officer of the Saskatchewan Landlords Association, said.
Hall says the government is making a mistake with this decision and he would have liked to see it offer rental assistance loans to tenants struggling due to the pandemic.
"All it is going to do is decrease the number of doors available moving forward because the landlords are going to have to throw the keys in," Hall said.
Morgan urged landlords and tenants, who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, to work together to come up with a plan.
"I expect that people will take it seriously, won’t use this as an opportunity to abuse it," Morgan said. "To tenants, I would say, your rent doesn’t go away, pay part of it, pay all of it, do what you can."
Tenants who can't pay their rent during this state of emergency will be expected to pay their rent in full once the state of emergency has ended.
The suspension of eviction hearings will be in effect for the next month and the government will review whether the decision needs to be extended.