By Allan Benner (Standard Reporter)
Niagara landlords say they’re willing to work with tenants who are facing the loss of jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But needlessly taking part in a rent strike being promoted on social media and with signs posted throughout the region is “totally ridiculous,” said Moshe Mizrachi.
“What’s that going to do? Eventually, you’re going to have to pay,” said Mizrachi, who owns rental property in Welland.
Landlord Tamara Levesque agreed, calling the rent strike “very alarming.”
“It disturbs me because it’s a small group of people who maybe have had a bad experience with landlords, who think they can start this uprising. From a landlord’s perspective, it puts me in a position of being very frightened,” she said.
“As time goes by, I’ve come to realize the laws are not in the favour of the landlords. When you are an active landlord it is very alarming that we as landlords don’t have the same rights. When I see this, that concerns me even more.”
Levesque said she agrees that no one should be evicted in the midst of the crisis because they can’t afford to pay rent, but governments have earmarked billions of dollars in funding to help people who are struggling cover costs such as rent.
“What assurances do we have as landlords that if the government is providing money to cover these expenses, that the landlords actually get that money?” she said.
Mizrachi said he understands hardships tenants are facing, many of whom have been laid off due to the business shutdowns, but he’s one of several landlords willing to work with their tenants in light of the pandemic.
“What I’m telling my tenants is, ‘I understand you may have lost your job and you have all sorts of other expenses.’ I’m saying, ‘Pay what you can, and please keep track of what you owe. But one day down the road, you’re going to have to pay,'” he said.
“Unfortunately, depending on how many abstainers I have, it could be catastrophic,” he added.
Niagara Community Legal Clinic executive director Aiden Johnson, too, advised tenants not to participate in the rent strike.
“Tenants are in a very tough situation right now,” he said. “Low-income tenants who have lost either their job or a significant part of their income because of the COVID crisis, in many cases, we know will not have enough money to pay their rent on April 1 and the government needs to provide assistance in some legal legislative way.”
Despite the moratorium on evictions, Tony Caruso, a paralegal from Niagara Falls, said the Landlord and Tenant Act is still in force.
“And this rent strike is 100 per cent illegal,” said Caruso, who specializes in landlord and tenant claims.
Johnson, too, called the strike illegal.
“The Niagara Community Legal Clinic urges tenants to pursue legal options for obtaining justice,” he said.
Paralegal Josh McDougall said there are many tenants who are facing a difficult decision.
“They have to flip a coin; do we eat, or do we pay rent,” he said.
But even those tenants will eventually have to pay.
While encouraging landlords to work with tenants who are struggling, McDougall said landlords should also continue to issue N4 forms – legal documents that warn tenants that their unpaid rent could lead to eviction.
McDougall called the moratorium on evictions “kind of a stay of execution” for tenants, but once business returns to normal, he said, “there’s a plethora of potential remedies for a landlord.”
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