What Can I Do If I Am Unable To Pay Rent?

Unable to pay rent

Being a tenant in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic can feel a bit unsettling, particularly if you are unable to pay the rent. The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) package was introduced by the federal government to help lessen the impact of job losses. The package provides compensation of $2000 for affected workers for a period up to 4 months. However, this may not be enough for renters amidst other financial obligations.

First things first, if you are certain that you will not be able to pay your monthly rent, we recommend that you speak to your landlord ASAP and see if you can work out an arrangement for payments. But please do understand that you have made an agreement with the landlord prior to taking possession of the property and therefore they will always have the upper hand in any disputes.

What rights do I have as a renter?

Renter’s Rights in Alberta

Depending on where you live, your provincial government has established guidelines to facilitate any agreements or disagreements between renters and landlords. For instance, in Alberta, the landlord must provide a written notice with reasons outlining the eviction. You can dispute the eviction notice through the provincial court or the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service. However, while you can dispute the matter, you are still obligated to pay your rent on time. Therefore, if you fail to do so, the landlord still has the right to evict you. The government of Alberta has provided a guideline for Albertans and requested the landlords to be accommodating during the pandemic. Premier Jason Kenney also announced that renters cannot be evicted from their homes for failing on their rent and utilities prior to May 1st. 

“We are expecting landlords and tenants to work together to figure out payment plans that help everyone meet financial obligations as we manage COVID-19, and we are doing further policy work on support for renters during these tough times,” Kenney said.

Renter’s Rights in Ontario

In Ontario, the eviction process is slightly different. The landlord must go through the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) and receive permission to end a tenancy. If granted, the tenant will have the opportunity to plead their case. In light of the recent pandemic, the LTB has suspended eviction notices and hearings until further notice. Additionally, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario have also raised concerns and want to see funding for residents who are unable to afford their rent. Other communities in Ontario are also demanding the provincial government to temporarily suspend rent payments for the duration of the crisis.

The provincial governments are taking necessary steps to help ease the burden on families resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba have all announced freezes on annual rent increases. Additionally, British Columbia Housing has considered rent subsidies up to $500 a month for households with low incomes. While there is a vast amount of information available online, we recommend that you always refer to your provincial government’s official website for the most up-to-date and accurate information. You can click on links below for the latest updates from your province.

AlbertaCOVID-19 Update
British ColumbiaCOVID-19 Update
ManitobaCOVID-19 Update
New BrunswickCOVID-19 Update
Newfoundland and LabradorCOVID-19 Update
Nova ScotiaCOVID-19 Update
OntarioCOVID-19 Update
Prince Edward IslandCOVID-19 Update
QuebecCOVID-19 Update
SaskatchewanCOVID-19 Update


Will I be able to claim payment through my renters insurance?

There is a misconception that renters insurance will come to the rescue in the event you are unable to pay your rent. Unfortunately, renters insurance is only designed to cover the loss or damage to your personal property. For example, you are able to claim liability coverage and living expenses in the event there are damages to the property. However, you will not be able to claim funds to cover rent owing during the pandemic or an economic downturn.

Can I claim part of my rent from the government?

To date, there is no information from the federal government relating to compensation for landlords or tenants to support rent payments. However, some of the big banks of Canada and mortgage lenders have introduced plans to defer mortgage payments for up to 6 months depending on the lender. While this does not help renters, it may be worth speaking to your landlord about. Perhaps they will allow you to defer, or make partial payments until the situation improves.

Observing the initiatives of the banks, the tenant advocacy groups have called upon their provincial governments to temporarily prevent landlords from evicting any tenants who are unable to pay their rent. As a result, a few provinces have temporarily suspended eviction notices including Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.


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