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Province to provide rent subsidies, suspend evictions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 at 8:11 pm PDT

Summary

The rent subsidy, up to $500 a month, will be disbursed by BC Housing

Subsidy will be disbursed by BC Housing directly to landlords

The rent freeze is effective April 1

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday a rental supplement, as well as a rent freeze and suspension of current and future evictions in B.C. during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The rent subsidy, up to $500 a month, will be disbursed by BC Housing directly to landlords and builds on federal and provincial financial supports already announced for those facing financial hardship.

Horgan said he doesn’t want people to fear losing their homes, which “should be a place of comfort and security.”

He acknowledged that with lost jobs and wages due to COVID-19, many tenants are worried they can’t make the rent.

“It’s a challenging time for landlords too,” he added. “Our plan will give much-needed financial relief to renters and landlords. It will also provide more security for renters, who will be able to stay in their homes without fear of eviction or increasing rents during this emergency.”

He said the suspension on current and future evictions will stay in place during the province’s state of emergency order. The rent freeze is effective April 1.

Horgan added the province will try to get the rent relief into the hands of those in need as soon as possible, but could not commit to a date.

The funds will support renters experiencing a loss of income by helping them pay their rent and will be paid directly to landlords on their behalf, says a government release, to ensure landlords continue to receive rental income during the pandemic.

The supplement will be available to renters who are facing financial hardship, but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs.

While a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason, the province is making an exception where needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to property. Landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing, according to the province.

Existing eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch are also halted, except for safety concerns, and such cases will be up to the courts.

Furthermore, landlords will be prevented from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant, except when health and safety or damage to the unit are concerned.

The province is further restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices, allowing emails but not personal service, to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19.

Landlords will be able to restrict the use of common areas, such as laundry rooms, by tenants or guests, as well.

Wednesday’s housing announcements are part of the $5-billion B.C. action plan to combat coronavirus, revealed earlier in the week. About $2.8 billion of that is to help people and provide services, while the rest is for businesses and recovery.