Today I’m writing to you with news about Halifax Regional Council, property tax due date, to defer or not defer, COVID-19 police stats, my amazing colleagues at HRM, and the provincial small business impact grant.
I am also going to share a short explainer laying out what happens if you cannot pay your rent for COVID-19 related reasons.
It remains very important to follow the public health orders, both in spirit and intent. Stay home as you are able, wash your hands frequently, maintain 2m social distancing, and all those things I outlined here.
Yesterday (April 2) we had the historic first virtual meeting of Halifax Regional Council. The public could watch us via a link to Microsoft Teams, but we hope that by next week it will be back on our regular server and Eastlink Cable 10. It was actually relaxing to one again be debating normal non-coronavirus items.
One of the things that happened was the first stage of delaying tax payment deadlines. Notice was given to consider extending the due date and the date interest accrues for the payment of residential and commercial property taxes for the first tax bill of 2020-21 and we will vote on it next meeting.
All this does is delay the due date by 31 days, so theoretically every one could wait until June 1 to pay. This is not a targeted deferral program for those who are having income issues, we are working with the Province to deliver a province wide program that is targeted for those in need.
I will say again that if residents should not defer taxes or bills or mortgages or rent unless they absolutely need to. The model Canada seems to be using is that the Feds and the Province are giving relief cheques and everyone is deferring and low and no interest. This means that deferred bills will keep piling up and create a mountain of debts to pay off when this is over.
The stats are that 10-15% of Canadians are experiencing income challenges, and they certainly need to defer and they need relief. For everyone else, it is probably not wise to take on debt if you are are still working, and there is a lot of potential downside when time comes to pay it off.
Halifax Regional Police are producing COVID-19 related stats. If you see something that does not appear to be following the Public Health Emergency orders, please DO NOT CALL 911, call police non-emergency at 902-490-5020.
Almost all of Halifax Regional Council put their names on this open letter to our colleagues at the Halifax Regional Municipality. I am so proud of all the hard work of our colleagues across this organization, and we wanted them to know just how much we value everything they have been doing during this crisis.
There will be changes to our staff structure due to this crisis, and there are those who simply are unable to work and will be laid off, but I for one won’t support laying off people who are still working. The need for government services has gone up, not down during this crisis, and our people are needed to help maintain the municipality and then drive the economic recovery to come.
The province announced the Small Business Impact Grant yesterday. Through this new $20-million program, eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant of 15 per cent of their revenue from sales, either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. This flexible, one-time, upfront grant can be used for any purpose necessary. Funding for both programs will come from a new $50 million fund administered by Dalhousie University. That and other new supports for business outlined here
What happens if you cannot pay your rent for COVID-19 related reasons
If you cannot pay your rent for COVID-19 related income loss, you cannot be evicted. Most of us have never been threatened with eviction and don’t know how the process works, so I talked to Tammy Wohlner at Legal Aid and found out how it works. Any errors in the following summary are mine, not hers!
Most landlords are good people and I have heard countless stories of landlords supporting tenants through this difficult time. The first step for most people is to email or call your landlord or their representative and tell them you cannot pay rent due to COVID-19 income loss. That said, if some landlords continue to try and collect rent despite provincial direction, it is important you know your rights and options.
Even under normal circumstances, even if you cannot pay your rent at the start of the month, your landlord cannot take action right away.
Seventeen days (not 15) after your rent was due (if paid monthly), a landlord can serve you with a Notice to Quit (also called a Form D) for rental arrears. This is basically a warning that says “you have to pay rent”. A Notice to Quit does not mean you have to move out. You have fifteen days from being served to pay your rent. A landlord may not enter your property, you are not required to move out at this point.
Fifteen days later, if rent is not paid, the landlord has to file an Order to Vacate (Form K) with Residential Tenancies. Form Ks are not being accepted by the Residential Tenancies office at this time. Only after a Form K is file can forced to leave your apartment.
Landlords who do not provide you with a Form D and then a Form K are not following the legal process and cannot evict you.
So in summary:
- Don’t wait to be served a Form D. If you have had income loss from COVID-19, email your landlord right away and explain that, and keep a copy of that email.
- If they keep trying to collect or evict, please contact the provincial residential tenancies program, information here.
- If you need further help, Legal Aid runs a private online chat from 3-5 every Wednesday on social justice issues such as tenant rights, at www.nslegalaid.ca People can also apply online for legal services or call to apply over the phone 902-420-3464.
- If worse comes to worse and a landlord attempts to enter your apartment to evict you disregarding information above, please call the police non-emergency and ask them to come and assist you in removing the landlord or their representative from your apartment 902.490.5020.
MORE INFO FROM DAL LEGAL AID HERE (THANKS LISA ROBERTS):
Low income and NS Power