Questions From Tenants
Do I Still Need To Pay Rent in Saskatchewan During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Yes. Whether you are paying month-to-month or on a lease, you are still in a contract to pay rent. Instead of a rent freeze, the provincial and federal governments have rolled out financial support programs to those whose income is affected by the coronavirus outbreak. These include:
- 6-month Freeze on Student Loan Payments
- Social Isolation Support
- Enhanced EI
- 6-Month Utility Bill Deferral (waive interest on late utility payments)
- Increasing the Canada Child Care Benefit
- Special GST Credit Payment (in May)
- Mortgage Deferral (if you Rent and are a Landlord)
- Other Federal Programs
From March 26-Aug 4, a temporary eviction ban was in place for Saskatchewan. That has been lifted, further emphasizing the need to pay rent. Use the programs above and do your best to pay your rent and bills on time. If you still can’t, let your landlord know as soon as possible. Most should be willing to work with you to find a way to bridge any short term income issues.
Why Do I Need to Pay Rent If Landlords Don't Have to Pay Their Mortgage?
It is a myth that landlords don’t have to pay their mortgage. While the major banks are allowing applications for deferring mortgage payments up to 6 months, these are not automatic and not always granted. The landlord generally must prove that there is some link to the current outbreak in order to apply. They also must pay interest on the missed interest payments so there can be a significant additional cost. If you are absolutely unable to pay rent, talk to your landlord about what has happened. They will likely understand and may need your help to qualify for mortgage deferral.
I'm A Student And My Classes Have Been Cancelled. I Want To Go Home During This Crisis. What Can I Do?
Well, the good news is that if you have student loans, there is a 6-month freeze on student loan payments. There is also a 6-month deferral of utility payments (you’ll need to pay in 6 months but there won’t be any interest on the missed payments). But the situation for renting has not yet changed. If you’re on a month-to-month, give notice (a minimum of 30 days) and pay rent as you normally would. Your damage deposit is NOT your last month’s rent, even if the amount is the same. You’re still required to pay your rent and then the landlord gives back the damage deposit minus expenses for repairs. If you’re on a lease, again as normal, you have already committed to pay for the duration of your lease.
Talk to your landlord and they may let you out early, but understand that they also have bills and expenses and may not be able to do so. Often the best bet is to find someone that can sublet the unit, thereby ensuring the income that your lease had promised. Breaking your lease can lead to bad references, bad credit checks, and difficulty when you move back to resume classes.
Are There Any Support Programs For Renters During Coronavirus?
Sure! Here are just a few of the provincial and federal programs that may be of help to you:
I've Given Notice But Now I Don't Want to Move Because of COVID. Do I Still Have to Move?
This is a situation where you’ll have to talk to your landlord or property manager. If they don’t have anyone new already signed on a lease, they should be happy to extend your stay. It helps reduce their risk and exposure to potential applicants and saves them work! On the other hand, if they have already signed a lease with a new tenant, they may not have much choice. There haven’t yet been any new rules specifically related to renting or to cover these situations. Again, talk to them. These are unusual times and they may be able to talk with the new tenant about other options. We’re all in this together. The more people stay put, the better it is for everyone!
Can I Be Evicted in Saskatchewan If I Can't Pay Rent?
As of August 4, 2020, yes you can. There had been a temporary ban on evictions in Saskatchewan that was lifted. If you’re struggling to come up with the funds, know that there are programs mentioned in the question above about support for renters and do your best to pay your rent and bills on time. If you still can’t, let your landlord know as soon as possible. They may be able to make arrangement with your help to defer their mortgage payments so you aren’t endangering their family. And hopefully they will be open to working with you to find a solution that is mutually beneficial given the circumstances.
Questions From Landlords & Property Managers
Can I Continue To Show Units To Potential Tenants During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Yes. The Saskatchewan Landlord Association, in its FAQ, is “recommending that any showings be conducted virtually and that only one person enter a unit to conduct the showing. Proper sanitation should be conducted before and after a showing.” At Anikio, we are happy to help landlords create a virtual tour for their rental. The virtual tour appears directly in the listing, and with our new virtual tour engine, it’s possible to host a live, guided tour. So you can walk potential tenants through the suite while on an integrated video call from the safety and comfort of your homes.
Alternatively, consider going to the unit yourself and conducting the viewing virtually through a live Facetime, Skype, or Whatsapp video call. If you must view in person, consider providing gloves and allowing tenants to look through the unit while they wait outside. Anikio does not recommend allowing non-virtual viewings of currently occupied rentals.
Under no circumstances should a person with symptoms, in social isolation, or quarantine enter, meet, or have their dwelling entered.
How Are Other Landlords Handling Coronavirus?
Landlords and property managers are taking steps to protect tenants and themselves. Many are working from home as much as possible and using electronic means to reduce contact including:
- E-transfers for rent payments
- Email or online applications (you can post your application for directly on your Anikio listing!)
- Video chat interviews
- Virtual tours, video chat, or published video tours instead of in-person viewings
- Using drop boxes for keys and documents
All precautions should be in alignment with the provincial and federal guidelines established by the Chief Medical Health Officers and ensure you can safely provide services to your tenants.
How Do I Handle A Maintenance Request During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
As of March 26, Building Maintenance, Repair and Housekeeping is considered an “Allowable Business Service” under the new Saskatchewan regulations.
Emergency maintenance of course must continue. Protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and booties should be worn, and proper sanitation protocols should be completed before and after the issue is resolved.
Non-Emergency maintenance (creaking doors, etc) should be deferred wherever possible to minimize social contact and risk to tenants and maintenance workers.
My Tenants Have Lost Their Jobs - What Can I Do For Them?
Coronavirus or not, the Sask. Landlord Association offers these suggestions to help tenants overcome financial difficulty:
- Negotiating a payment plan to defer or split payments
- Reducing the rent that is normally paid or not charging it at all
- Suspend late payment fees and/or provide an additional grace period
- Encourage them to seek financial assistance through federal and provincial governments
As always, document this in writing! Make sure that any agreement has clearly defined terms and time frame.
Can I Evict a Tenant For Not Paying Rent During The Coronavirus Outbreak?
As of August 4, 2020, Saskatchewan has resumed evictions for missed or late rent payments. A temporary eviction ban had been in place from March 26. This is a difficult time for tenants as well as landlords, and communication is important for both parties. Talk with them, help them understand some of the available financial support programs, and if possible, talk with your bank about mortgage deferral. Note that you may be charged additional interest on deferred mortgage interest payments. There is still some question about the effect on your credit score as well.
Can I Evict a Tenant For Other Reasons During The Coronavirus Outbreak?
Yes. A temporary eviction ban had been in place (lifted Aug. 4, 2020) but it was always possible to serve notice for other non-compliance issues as usual. Notice must still be formally delivered and posted on the door as well as a second form of communication. There is no need to enter the suite or have a face-to-face meeting to deliver the notice. If the cause of eviction is not severe, consider communicating with them and taking all steps (as usual) to avoid eviction if possible. This is a difficult and dangerous time to be evicted. But this is also a good reason for tenants to respect their leases.
Do I Need to Close My Building's Recreational Facilities (Gyms, Pools, Etc)? Do I Need to Reduce Rent?
According to the Sask. Landlord Association, Recreational facilities should be closed during the pandemic. A temporary closure does not require a reduction in rent.