Revelstoke resident Matt Coté received an email yesterday from the property service company that manages his rental that he said left him disgusted.
“This is supposed to be a time of people coming and helping each other,” he said.
Revelstoke Property Services said in its email to Coté, regardless of the challenges caused by COVID-19, the rent is due, in full, on the first of the month and no exceptions will be made for unpaid or late rent.
If rent is not obtained by the third day the email continued, a 10-day notice for unpaid rent will be delivered and the tenant would be evicted.
|Revelstoke Property Services sent an email to its tenants Mar. 19. (Submitted)|
Earlier this week, Canada’s six largest banks announced they will allow mortgage payment deferrals for up to six months due to the crisis caused by coronavirus. However, it’s unclear whether customers will be able to postpone mortgage payments interest-free.
A new law in England was proposed this week that would ban evicting tenants from their homes for at least three months. In Ontario, the provincial government has temporarily frozen new eviction orders and will halt evictions planned for this week.
Yet, no such legislation exists in B.C.
In an email response to Black Press, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said “all options are on the table to support housing stability for renters. We are working to make sure people are not evicted because of this crisis.”
They continued no one will face eviction from any BC Housing funded buildings due to non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apartment buildings in Revelstoke owned by BC Housing include Columbia Gardens and Rivers Edge, which are also managed by Revelstoke Property Services.
Coté is a freelance writer in Revelstoke and is planning to pay next month’s rent on a line of credit. He said he has a stack of invoices, roughly $20,000 worth billed to various U.S. companies. Due to the financial crisis caused by COVID-19, he suspects it will be increasingly difficult to collect payments owed.
On one hand, Coté said the federal government is telling people to social distance and stay inside to help slow the spread of the virus, while Revelstoke Property Services is willing to put people on the streets.
“The company is protecting people’s investments instead of their tenant’s health and safety,” he said.
Nico Leenders, general manager of Revelstoke Property Services, who sent the email, said the company has bills and employees to pay as well. He said the owners of the properties they manage have been contacting Leenders, concerned about income from the owed rent.
Leenders said Revelstoke Property Services is operating as required under provincial law and will not change its policies unless the province announces a rent relief program, which Leenders said he hopes is coming.
However, Leenders acknowledged the initial email did sound “heartless”, so the company sent another apologizing, asking tenants to contact Revelstoke Property Services if they are unable to pay rent and “we will do what we can to work with you.”
“We will offer lenacy when we can,” said Leenders.
|Revelstoke Property Services sent a second email to its tenants Mar. 19. (Submitted)|
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced financial aid for workers who wouldn’t normally qualify for employment insurance benefits. Under the new rules Canadians who have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine can apply for EI. However, the benefits still need to be approved by Parliament and wouldn’t come into effect until at least next month.
Cody Niebrugge, another landlord in Revelstoke, said his tenants were recently laid off by Revelstoke Mountain Resort when it closed early. Niebrugge said he is trying to work out a payment plan with his tenants, such as deferring or even just using the damage deposit for April.
Niebrugge is a snowcat mechanic, working at ski hills across the country. As the majority of ski hills have closed, he is also jobless with a wife and toddler to support.
He said ultimately if his tenants will be unable to pay rent or decide to move away, he will most likely have to declare bankruptcy.
Regardless, Coté said he has faith the provincial government will soon provide aid to renters.
“We’re all in this together.”
There is an online petition circulating online, calling for the end of rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis. As-of-March 20, the petition has more than 500,000 signatures.
Revelstoke Property Services is owned by Western Trust, an American investment firm that also manages Canadian properties in Whistler and Mont Tremblant. Revelstoke Property Services is the largest property management company in Revelstoke with roughly 250 rental properties.
For more information about your rights as a renter and as a landlord go to the Residential Tenancy Branch website.