Transcript: Rental Challenges during COVID-19 | May 19, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a gray shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Rental challenges during COVID-19. @spaiking, @theagenda."

Steve says JUNE 1st IS LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY, AND FOR THOUSANDS OF ONTARIO TENANTS, THAT MEANS THE RENT WILL BE DUE. BUT WITH MORE THAN A MILLION JOBS LOST SINCE THIS PANDEMIC BEGAN, PAYING THAT RENT WILL BE TOUGH FOR MANY. SAME STORY FOR LANDLORDS, WHO HAVE MORTGAGE PAYMENTS, OVERHEAD, AND PAYROLL TO MEET. WITH US NOW IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL FOR A LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING OUT THERE, WE WELCOME: TONY IRWIN, HE'S PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE FEDERATION OF RENTAL HOUSING PROVIDERS OF ONTARIO...

Tony is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing glasses and a gray shirt.

Steve continues GEORDIE DENT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERATION OF METRO TENANTS' ASSOCIATIONS...

Geordie is in his thirties, clean-shaven, with side-parted straight brown hair. He's wearing a black jacket.

Steve continues AND VANMALA SUBRAMANIAM, BUSINESS REPORTER FOR THE FINANCIAL POST...

Vanmala is in her early thirties, with long straight black hair. She's wearing a gray blouse.

Steve continues IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU THREE AGAIN. LET'S DIVE RIGHT INTO THIS. TONY, WHY DON'T YOU START US OFF? HOW HAVE LANDLORDS BEEN HANDLING, IN YOUR VIEW, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

The caption changes to "Tony Irwin. Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario."

Tony says STEVE, THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. IT'S BEEN, AS YOU SAID, VERY CHALLENGING TIMES. BUT I THINK FOR THE MOST PART, LANDLORDS AND TENANTS HAVE BEEN WORKING VERY WELL TOGETHER, JUST TRYING TO GET THROUGH THIS CRISIS. WE KNOW IT'S UNPRECEDENTED TIMES. BUT I THINK FOR THE MOST PART EVERYONE IS HANDLING IT VERY WELL, AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY GOOD NEWS.

Steve says GEORDIE, WOULD YOU SHARE THAT CHARACTERIZATION?

The caption changes to "Geordie Dent. Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations."

Geordie says UNFORTUNATELY, NO. FOR MOST OF THE TENANTS WE'VE BEEN TALKING TO, A LOT OF THEM ARE TERRIFIED, THERE'S A LOT OF HARASSMENT GOING ON AND A LOT OF BIG CONCERNS WITH THINGS LIKE BUILDING CLEANING AND UNIT ENTERING.

Steve says VANMALA, MAYBE I NEED YOU TO BREAK THE TIE ON THIS ONE. WE'VE GOT ONE SAYING THINGS ARE BASICALLY GOING OKAY. WE HAVE ANOTHER DESCRIBING IT AS END TIMES. WHAT ARE YOU FINDING?

The caption changes to "Vanmala Subramaniam. Financial Post."

Vanmala says I'M FINDING THERE'S A LOT OF FRUSTRATION FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE SPECTRUM. SO TENANTS ARE SAYING THAT LANDLORDS ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH. LANDLORDS ARE SAYING THAT THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM IS NOT ADEQUATE AND THEY MIGHT NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN IT. SO ESSENTIALLY I WOULD CHARACTERIZE IT AS A BIT OF A MESS.

Steve says A BIT OF A MESS, OKAY. LET'S PLAY SOME TAPE HERE. WE WANT TO GET ANOTHER VIEW ON THIS ISSUE. WE INTERVIEWED SOMEBODY BY THE NAME OF ALE THEY DID A SURVEY OF THEIR MEMBERS ON HOW THE COVID-19 CRISIS HAS BEEN AFFECTING THEM. LET'S HAVE A LISTEN TO THIS AND THEN WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "May 16, 2020. Alejandra Ruiz."
In the clip, Alejandra sits in a room and speaks. She's in her fifties, with brown hair, and wears glasses.

She says WE DID A SURVEY OF 1,170 MEMBERS ACROSS CANADA, AND WHAT WE FOUND OUT IS 70 percent OF THESE MEMBERS, THEY WERE AFFECTED BY COVID-19 AND THEY LOST THEIR JOB. ONLY 47 percent OF THESE MEMBERS WERE ABLE TO GET CERB AND EI. SO THEN WE ASKED ANOTHER QUESTION IF THEY ARE ABLE TO PAY THEIR RENT FOR MAY 1ST AND 35 percent OF THEM SAY THEY CANNOT PAY THE RENT, WE'RE VERY WORRIED, AND WE HAVE TO RELY ON CREDIT CARD OR FAMILY MEMBERS OR HIGH-LOAN INTEREST. THIS IS VERY CONCERNED. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER? WELL, I DON'T THINK THAT'S TRUE. BECAUSE EVERYBODY IS... WE HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY COVID BUT EVERYBODY HAS BEEN AFFECTED DIFFERENTLY.

The clip ends.

Steve says LET'S GET SOME REACTION TO THAT. GEORDIE, YOU'VE HEARD THOSE COMMENTS. WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

Geordie says THEY'RE PRETTY MUCH IN LINE WITH WHAT WE'VE BEEN HEARING. SO I THINK THE NUMBERS THAT CAME OUT AROUND MID-APRIL SAID ABOUT 15 percent OF PEOPLE WEREN'T ABLE TO PAY THEIR RENT NATIONALLY. IN ONTARIO, THAT WOULD BE 75,000 FAMILIES, SO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE. AND, AGAIN, WE'RE GETTING CALLS JUST ALL THE TIME FROM PEOPLE THAT CAN'T PAY, DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO WHEN THE EVICTION BAN IS LIFTED, AND WHILE I THINK THERE HAVE BEEN SOME LANDLORDS THAT HAVE BEEN DECENT AROUND THIS STUFF, A LOT OF THEM HAVE BEEN ENGAGING IN JUST MONSTROUS HARASSMENT.

Steve says MONSTROUS HARASSMENT. BEFORE I GET TONY TO COMMENT ON THAT, I SHOULD POINT OUT WHEN I ASKED TONY TO ROLL THE CLIP, I'M NOT ASKING TONY IRWIN. OUR DIRECTOR IS TONY BURKE, HE'S ROLLING THE CLIPS, NOT THE FELLOW REPRESENTING THE LANDLORDS HERE. HAVING SAID THAT, TONY, DO YOU WANT TO COME BACK IN AND ADD ANYTHING TO YOUR INITIAL CHARACTERIZATION WHICH WE'RE HEARING SOME FEEDBACK IS NOT QUITE ACCORDING TO HOYLE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

Tony says STEVE, WE HEARD SOME OF THE STATS. THE MAJORITY OF TENANTS HAVE BEEN PAYING THEIR RENT. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THERE AREN'T TENANTS WHO HAVEN'T BEEN IMPACTED DUE TO THE PANDEMIC. THEY ABSOLUTELY HAVE BEEN. PEOPLE HAVE LOST THEIR JOBS. GOVERNMENT SUPPORT MAY HAVE BEEN HELPING THEM BUT IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN ENOUGH, BUY GROCERIES AND PAY FOR HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES. FOR TENANTS IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, WE HAVE BEEN SAYING TO OUR MEMBERS SINCE THE BEGINNING,, WORK WITH YOUR RESIDENTS. THOSE WHO ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY, LET'S TRY TO FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION TO WORK TOGETHER BECAUSE WE REALLY NEED TO GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER. I UNDERSTAND THAT'S CERTAINLY AN ISSUE FOR MANY MEMBERS. WE'RE TRYING TO WORK TOGETHER AND FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION.

Steve says TONY, I SHOULD FOLLOW UP WITH YOU INASMUCH AS I SHOULD GIVE YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT ON SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE HEARD FREQUENTLY OVER THE LAST NUMBER OF WEEKS, AND THAT IS THIS NOTION THAT SOME LANDLORDS... SOME... ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY TO KIND OF PURGE TENANTS THAT THEY'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GET RID OF AND THIS NOWú THEM THE KIND OF POLITICAL COVER TO DO SO. HOW MUCH OF THAT IS GOING ON?

Tony says FIRST OF ALL, THERE IS AN EVICTION BAN AND WE VERY MUCH SUPPORT, UNDERSTAND AND SUPPORT, WHY GOVERNMENT CAME FORWARD VERY EARLY ON IN THIS CRISIS AND INSTITUTED THAT. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE ANYONE LOSE THEIR HOUSING DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND CERTAINLY WE UNDERSTAND AND SUPPORT THAT. SO IF ACTIVITY IS GOING ON APART FROM THAT, THEN THAT'S NOT OKAY AND THAT CERTAINLY NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

Steve says VANMALA, MAYBE YOU CAN CLEAR UP SOME OF WHATEVER MISCONCEPTIONS MAY BE OUT THERE ON THIS ISSUE. IS IT IN FACT THE CASE THAT EVICTIONS, TENANT EVICTIONS AT THE MOMENT, ARE BANNED IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO?

Vanmala says YEAH. THAT'S AN INTERESTING QUESTION BECAUSE TECHNICALLY SPEAKING THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO GET A TENANT OUT OF THEIR HOUSE, TO FORCE AN EVICTION. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT LANDLORDS CANNOT HAND OUT AN EVICTION NOTICE. SO, YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN HEARING, AT LEAST FROM, YOU KNOW, SOURCES THAT I'VE TALKED TO, ESPECIALLY IN LOW INCOME NEIGHBOURHOODS OWNED BY MASSIVE LANDLORDS LIKE TIMBERCREEK, YOU KNOW, ALL THESE REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS, THESE MASSIVE LANDLORDS, EVICTION NOTICES ARE BEING ISSUED. IT'S JUST THAT THEY'RE NOT BEING ENFORCED. AND MEANWHILE, COURTS ARE NOT IN SESSION RIGHT NOW AND THE LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD. SO THEY'RE NOT LOOKING AT ANY EVICTION NOTICES. SO WHAT'S HAPPENING IS THAT YOU MIGHT POTENTIALLY SEE A PILEUP OF EVICTION NOTICES, AND WHEN THAT BAN IS LIFTED AND YOU CAN ACTUALLY ENFORCE IT, YOU MIGHT SEE A WAVE OF PEOPLE BEING ASKED TO LEAVE THEIR HOME. SO IT'S NOT NECESSARILY TRUE THAT WE HAVE A CLEAR MORATORIUM ON EVICTIONS. THEY'VE JUST KIND OF BEEN DELAYED.

Steve says DELAYED. DO WE HAVE ANY SENSE OF WHEN THE PROVINCE MIGHT LIFT THAT MORATORIUM?

Vanmala says WE DON'T HAVE ANY SENSE OF IT. I THINK THAT THE PROVINCE IS GENERALLY AWARE THAT RENT IS AN ISSUE AND THEY DON'T WANT... IT'S ALSO BAD PR TO SEE PEOPLE KIND OF ON THE STREET BEING LED OUT OF THEIR HOMES DURING A PANDEMIC. BUT, YOU KNOW, A COUPLE OF THINGS. IF THIS GOES ON FOR MONTHS ON END, IF PEOPLE STOP BEING ABLE TO, YOU KNOW, COLLECT FEDERAL BENEFITS ONCE THOSE BENEFITS RUN OUT IN OCTOBER, CERB, FOR INSTANCE, THAT INCREASES THE LIKELIHOOD OF THEM NOT PAYING RENT AND THEN EVICTION. SO THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS IN PLAY RIGHT NOW. BUT AS IT STANDS, JUST TO CLARIFY, I KNOW OF EVICTION NOTICES THAT ARE BEING ISSUED, AND THEY'RE JUST NOT BEING ENFORCED.

Steve says A COUPLE OF MORE QUICK UPDATES HERE, VANMALA. WHAT ABOUT... WHAT IF YOU'RE A LANDLORD AND THE RENT THAT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO INCREASE UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, LET'S SAY WOULD BE GOING UP JUNE 1ST. ARE THOSE INCREASES STILL PERMITTED TO GO FORWARD?

Vanmala says THOSE INCREASES ARE STILL PERMITTED TO GO FORWARD. BUT THEY DON'T NECESSARILY TAKE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY. SO, YOU KNOW, WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW, THERE'S A LOT OF NEGOTIATING GOING ON BETWEEN TENANTS AND LANDLORDS, THAT SOME SORT OF RENT DEFERMENT SCHEME WHERE, MAYBE, THE INCREASE IS SPREAD OUT OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS OF THE YEAR, OR, YOU KNOW, JUST SOME SORT OF SCHEME THAT IS BEING COME UP WITH. BUT IT'S NOT TO SAY THAT YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED... IF YOU'RE PREAPPROVED BY THE LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD TO INCREASE RENT, AN INFLATIONARY INCREASE, IT DOESN'T MEAN IT DOES COME INTO EFFECT. YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR LANDLORD. I ALSO WANT TO POINT OUT, STEVE, THERE'S A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT'S HAPPENING BETWEEN RESIDENTIAL TENANTS AND WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH COMMERCIAL TENANTS. JUST A QUICK EXAMPLE HERE... I WON'T GO ON WITH THIS. BUT WITH COMMERCIAL TENANTS, EVICTIONS ARE BEING ENFORCED. THERE ARE NUMEROUS SMALL BUSINESSES THAT ARE NOW BEING SHUT DOWN BECAUSE THEY HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO PAY RENT AND THEY'VE HAD TO MOVE OUT OF THOSE PREMISES. SO WITH RESIDENTIAL TENANTS, NO ONE IS BEING EVICTED. BUT WITH COMMERCIAL TENANTS, IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

Steve says IN FAIRNESS TO THE PROVINCE, THEY NEVER PROMISED TO PREVENT COMMERCIAL EVICTIONS FROM TAKING PLACE. THE PROMISE WAS ONLY TO STOP RESIDENTIAL TENANTS FROM BEING EVICTED FROM THEIR PLACES... RIGHT?

Vanmala says CORRECT, EXACTLY. YOU'RE RIGHT.

Steve says OKAY. VERY GOOD. TONY, YOU'VE HEARD SOME OF THE ANSWERS TO THOSE LAST FEW QUESTIONS. ANYTHING YOU WANT TO WEIGH IN THERE?

Tony says WELL, I THINK OUR MESSAGE AND WHAT WE'VE BEEN FOCUSED ON FROM THE BEGINNING OF THIS CRISIS, STEVE, IS WORKING WITH GOVERNMENT ON A SOLUTION TO HELP RESIDENTS WHO NEED IT. YOU KNOW, WE HAVE BEEN, AS HAVE OTHER POLITICAL LEADERS, MAYOR TORY, PREMIER FORD, SAYING TO RESIDENTS WHO CAN PAY RENT, PLEASE PAY. IT IS THOSE WHO PAY WHO CAN HELP RENTAL HOUSING PROVIDERS WHO CANNOT. FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT, WE HAVE PUT FORWARD A PLAN, A RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM THAT'S BEEN ENDORSED BY THE NON-PROFIT HOUSING PROVIDERS, THE CO-OP HOUSING PROVIDERS, AS A WAY FORWARD TO HELP TENANTS WHO, YOU KNOW, DESPITE WHATEVER MEANS THEY MAY HAVE OR WHATEVER ASSISTANCE THEY MAY BE RECEIVING FROM GOVERNMENT, IT'S SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH, AND WE RECOGNIZE THAT AND WE HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH GOVERNMENT ON COMING FORWARD WITH A SOLUTION.

Steve says IN A FEW MOMENTS, WE WILL TAKE A LOOK AT THIS ISSUE MORE FROM THE LANDLORD'S POINT OF VIEW IN TERMS OF WHAT'S NOT HAPPENING FOR THEM THAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO SEE. IN THE MEANTIME, I STILL WANT TO DOT A FEW MORE Is AND CROSS A FEW MORE, ITs WHEN IT COMES TO TENANTS. WE HAVE BEEN HEARING, TONY, THAT THE PROGRAM THAT THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS PUT FORWARD, THEY CALL IT THE RENT BACKSTOP PROGRAM, THAT KIND OF THING, WHEREBY THE LANDLORD TAKES A 25 percent HAIRCUT ON THE RENT, THE TENANT PACE 25 percent OF THE RENT, AND THE OTHER TWO GOVERNMENTS SPLIT THE REMAINING OTHER HALF RENT. WE'RE HEARING VERY FEW LANDLORDS ARE ACTUALLY TAKING THE GOVERNMENT UP ON THOSE PROGRAMS. IS THAT YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE CASE, AND NUMBER TWO, IF IT IS, WHY IS IT THE CASE?

Tony says THIS ISN'T AN AREA THAT I HAVE A LOT OF EXPERTISE IN. RESIDENTIAL BEING THE MAIN AREA I SPEND MY TIME. HOWEVER, WE DO HAVE MEMBERS THAT DO HAVE COMMERCIAL, PERHAPS COMMERCIAL SPACE WITHIN THEIR RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS. MY UNDERSTANDING, STEVE, ABOUT THIS, IS FIRST OF ALL IT'S NOT... [indiscernible] TO APPLY. THERE HAVE BEEN QUESTIONS AROUND HOW IT WORKS AND CMHC HAVE HAD TO COME OUT WITH CLARIFY FIXES AROUND IT. THOSE ARE THINGS THAT OBVIOUSLY NEED TO BE WORKED OUT AND I'M SURE THEY WILL. AS IT RELATES TO OUR MEMBERS, MY MEMBERS ARE MAINLY RESIDENTIAL WITH SMALL COMMERCIAL, ONE ISSUE THAT WE DO HAVE OR HAVE HEARD FROM IS THAT THE REQUIREMENTS TO HAVE 30 percent COMMERCIAL REVENUE, MANY OF OUR MEMBERS DON'T HAVE THAT BECAUSE THE MAJORITY OF THEIR BUILDINGS ARE RESIDENTIAL. THEY HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF COMMERCIAL. THEY DON'T MEET THE THRESHOLD TO ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO QUALIFY. SO WE DO KNOW THAT SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS HAVE HAD TO BE TWEAKED BASED UPON ONCE THEY BRING THEM OUT, RECOGNIZING THE SORT OF... SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT MAYBE WERE NOT FORESEEN. SO PERHAPS THAT'S SOMETHING THAT COULD BE ADDRESSED AND WE'RE SPEAKING WITH THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT ABOUT THAT.

Steve says GEORDIE, JUST IN THE LAST FEW MINUTES, WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT DIFFERENT PROGRAMS, DIFFERENT RULES, DIFFERENT REGULATIONS, DIFFERENT PRACTICES. IN YOUR VIEW, ARE TENANTS WELL ENOUGH AWARE OF WHAT THE SITUATION IS IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO EITHER TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PROGRAMS THAT ARE OUT THERE FOR THEM OR UNDERSTANDING WHAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THAT?

Geordie says NO, I THINK A LOT OF TENANTS DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT'S AVAILABLE, FOR A COUPLE OF REASONS: ONE, THERE'S NOT A LOT AVAILABLE. SO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAIVED RENT FOR 6 MONTHS, WHICH IS GREAT. THEY UNFORTUNATELY DID THAT FOR AIRLINES, YOU KNOW, SPENT HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ON THAT. THERE HAVE BEEN PROGRAMS, AS YOU'VE MENTIONED, FOR COMMERCIAL RENTERS, BUT NOTHING FOR RESIDENTIAL RENTERS. AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WHAT TENANTS ARE GOING THROUGH IS PRETTY BAD, AND THEY'RE OFTEN GETTING THAT AT THE SOURCE, WHICH IS THEIR LANDLORD. SO TWO WEEKS AGO, ONE OF MR. IRWIN'S MEMBERS PINEDALE PROPERTIES WAS IN THE NEWS BECAUSE THEY WENT DOOR TO DOOR WITH A DEBIT MACHINE DEMANDING THAT TENANTS MAX OUT THEIR CREDIT CARDS, UNIT TO UNIT. TENANTS WERE TERRIFIED THEY WERE GOING TO BE AFFECTED. THEY DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY. GETTING BLOOD FROM A STONE. SO THOSE ARE THE THREE MAIN ISSUES THAT WERE KIND OF ENCAPSULATED IN ONE ISSUE WE'RE HEARING ALL THE TIME. PEOPLE DON'T HAVE MONEY. THEY'RE SCRAMBLING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS. AND THE LANDLORD IN SOME CASES IS GOING DOOR TO DOOR WITH A DEBIT MACHINE SAYING PAY NOW, YOU'RE GOING TO GET EVICTED.

Steve says TONY, DO YOU WANT TO COMMENT ON THAT?

Tony says YEAH, THAT'S WRONG, AND CERTAINLY WE ARE ADVISING OUR MEMBERS, ESPECIALLY IN A TIME OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, YOU NEED TO BE, YOU KNOW, PHYSICALLY DISTANCING, YOU NEED TO BE REACHING OUT TO YOUR TENANTS, BUT YOU NEED TO BE COMPASSIONATE. YOU NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE. YOU NEED TO BE... YOU KNOW, COMING UP... SPEAKING WITH THEM, OF COURSE, BUT ABOUT SOME KIND OF A PLAN. SO THAT SORT OF BEHAVIOUR IS NOT OKAY. EQUALLY, THOUGH, I WOULD SAY, AND LAST WEEK THERE WERE SOME PROTESTS THAT OCCURRED AT PRIVATE HOMES OF SOME OF OUR MEMBERS, INCLUDING ONE FROM PINEDALE, AND I WOULD SAY THAT'S NOT OKAY EITHER. I WOULD SAY NONE OF THOSE ACTIONS ARE APPROPRIATE. AND NONE OF THEM ARE CONSTRUCTIVE AT REALLY GETTING TO SOLUTIONS FOR FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE IN PRECARIOUS ECONOMIC TIMES, NEED HELP. WE ALL NEED TO... AS I SAY, WE ALL NEED TO BE COMPASSIONATE AND WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER WITH ONE ANOTHER TO COME UP WITH POSITIVE SOLUTIONS.

Steve says GEORDIE, I GUESS IN THE INTERESTS OF FAIRNESS, I SHOULD ASK THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, WHICH IS, DO YOU KNOW OF TENANTS WHO COULD PAY THEIR RENT BUT ARE IN SOME RESPECTS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE CURRENT SITUATION NOT TO PAY THE RENT BECAUSE, LET'S FACE IT, SOME TENANTS WHO ACTUALLY CAN'T PAY THE RENT HAVE WORKED IT OUT WITH THEIR LANDLORDS. ANY MISCHIEVOUS GOING ON LIKE THAT?

Geordie says I'VE HEARD OF TWO MAJOR TENANTS DOING THAT, THE GAP, MULTIBILLION DOLLAR COMPANY CAME OUT AND SAID THEY'RE NOT GOING TO PAY THEIR RENT. SAME THING WITH A and W, I THINK THEY SAID IN NORTH AMERICA THEY'RE NOT GOING TO PAY THEIR RENT...

Steve says HOW ABOUT RESIDENTIAL TENANTS, I MEAN?

Geordie says NO. I'M POINTING THAT OUT FOR A REASON. I THINK A LOT OF COMMERCIAL TENANTS, MULTIBILLION DOLLAR TENANTS ARE DOING THAT. NO ONE SEEMS TO THINK IT'S AN ISSUE. BUT, YOU KNOW, I'VE TAKEN CALLS FROM HUNDREDS... AND MY AGENCY, THOUSANDS OF TENANTS SO FAR DURING THIS CRISIS. I HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO A SINGLE ONE THAT HAS THE MONEY AND ISN'T GOING TO PAY IT. AND MOST TENANTS PAY THEIR RENT AND THEY PAY THEIR RENT BECAUSE THEY LIKE STABILITY. IT'S KIND OF THE WHOLE POINT OF RENTAL HOUSING. YOU PAY YOUR RENT. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BEING ON THE STREET. I HAVEN'T TALKED TO ANYONE WHO HAS THE MONEY AND ISN'T PAYING IT. AGAIN, I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS IDEA THAT, AGAIN, A BUNCH OF PEOPLE AREN'T PAYING IS HAPPENING. IT'S JUST HAPPENING, AGAIN, WITH THESE KIND OF LARGE BILLION DOLLAR COMPANIES, NOT PEOPLE MAKING $40,000 A YEAR.

Steve says VANMALA, DO YOU WANT TO WEIGH IN ON THAT?

Vanmala says YES. SO, YOU KNOW, ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. I ALSO KNOW THAT, YOU KNOW, IN AN INTERVIEW WE DID WITH THE CEO OF RIOCAN, MAJOR COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL... ACTUALLY, COMMERCIAL LANDLORD, STAPLES IS NOT PAYING THEIR RENT. H and M, A BIG CLOTHING RETAILER, IS NOT PAYING RENT. AND THEY HAVE JUST TAKEN A STANCE SAYING THAT THEY'RE JUST NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT. ANYWAYS, SO... BUT OVERALL, THE ONE THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT RESIDENTIAL TENANTS LITERALLY DO NOT REALLY HAVE ANY KIND OF FEDERAL SUPPORT PROGRAM TO HELP PAY THEIR RENT. THE ONLY THING THAT HAS BEEN DONE IS GOVERNMENTS HAVE URGED LANDLORDS TO OFFER SOME SORT OF RENT DEFERMENT. YOU KNOW, THAT PUTS THE ONUS ON LANDLORDS TO BE GENEROUS ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY DO THAT. AND ON THE PART OF SMALL-TIME LANDLORDS, SAY A FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER WHO HAS TO PAY A MORTGAGE AND NEEDS THE MONEY FROM THEIR TENANT, THE ONLY OPTION FOR THEM IS TO ASK THEIR BANK FOR MORTGAGE DEFERMENT. AND WE'VE BEEN REPORTING ON STORIES OF THESE LANDLORDS GOING TO THEIR BANKS AND THE BANKS, YOU KNOW, ACCEPTING THESE THINGS ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, IF THEY DON'T HAVE GOOD CREDIT, FOR INSTANCE, THE LANDLORDS, THEY'RE SAYING, SORRY, WE CAN'T GIVE YOU A MORTGAGE DEFERMENT, WHICH THEN MEANS THE RENT FROM THE TENANT HAS TO BE PAID. SO ALL THESE THINGS ARE PLAYING OUT RIGHT NOW, MAINLY BECAUSE THE ONLY REAL HELP FOR INDIVIDUALS TO PAY RENT IS THE 2,000 dollar CHEQUE THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS GIVING, AND THAT'S IF YOU LOSE YOUR JOB BECAUSE OF COVID.

Steve says VANMALA, LET ME DO A FOLLOW-UP ON THIS. ADMITTEDLY THIS QUESTION COMES AT IT A BIT FROM THE LANDLORD'S POINT OF VIEW. AS LONG AS LANDLORDS DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY PROPERTY TAXES AND WE KNOW IN MANY MUNICIPALITIES THERE'S BEEN A PROPERTY TAX HOLIDAY, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY IT FOR A WHILE, I GUESS THEY COULD GET BY WITH NO RENT COMING IN OR WITH A REDUCED AMOUNT OF RENT COMING IN. BUT NOW, FOR EXAMPLE, THE CAPITAL CITY IN ONTARIO, TORONTO, HAS SAID, SORRY, WE'VE GOT TO START COLLECTING PROPERTY TAXES AGAIN, BUT IF THERE'S NO RENT COMING IN AND NO REVENUE COMING IN, HOW EXACTLY IS THAT SUPPOSED TO WORK FOR LANDLORDS?

Vanmala says WELL, I THINK IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT... IT DEPENDS ON WHAT KIND OF LANDLORD YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. SO FOR THE LARGE COMPANIES, TO BE FAIR TO THEM, IF THEY ARE... YOU KNOW, IF THEY'RE SPREAD OUT OVER HAVING COMMERCIAL TENANTS AS WELL AS RESIDENTIAL TENANTS AND THEY HAVE A BIT MORE OF A DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO, I GUESS, YOU KNOW, REVENUE STREAMS, IT ACTUALLY IS CONCEIVABLE THAT EVEN WITH PAYING PROPERTY TAXES THEY COULD CONTINUE TO... THEY COULD CONTINUE GIVING SOME SORT OF RENT DEFERMENT OR SOME SORTtm IT DEPENDS. BUT FOR SMALL-TIME LANDLORDS, IT'S... I CAN SEE WHERE THEY'RE COMING FROM. I CAN SEE IT'S AN ISSUE WITH SMALL-TIME LANDLORDS TO BE ABLE TO, YOU KNOW, OFFER RENT DEFERMENT, BECAUSE A LOT OF TIMES THEY DON'T REALLY HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY THEIR OWN MORTGAGES. SO I THINK THE BIG COMPANIES, IN MY OPINION, BASED ON MY REPORTING, HAVEN'T REALLY BEEN, YOU KNOW, OFFERING AS MUCH AS THEY COULD GIVEN THEIR BALANCE SHEET. BUT THE SMALL-TIME LANDLORDS ARE PROBABLY IN THE SAME BOAT AS TENANTS.

Steve says LET ME ASK GEORDIE ABOUT THAT. ANY SYMPATHY FOR THE SMALL MOM AND POP LANDLORD OPERATION, THAT IF THERE'S NO REVENUE COMING IN AND THERE'S NOW AN OBLIGATION, AS MAYOR JOHN TORY SAID THE OTHER DAY, TO START PAYING YOUR PROPERTY TAXES AGAIN, HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO FIGURE ALL THAT OUT?

Geordie says I DON'T KNOW. YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE ASKED FOR RIGHT OFF THE BAT WHEN THE CRISIS HIT WAS SOME MONEY TO HELP PAY THE RENT FOR THIS VERY REASON. YOU KNOW, ONE THING I WILL SAY, THOUGH, IS, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN'T FORGET ABOUT THE LAST 10 YEARS, ALL RIGHT? IN THE LAST 10 YEARS HAVE BEEN A PROFIT BONANZA IN THE RENTAL SECTOR. ANYONE WHO HAS RENTED KNOWS THAT RENTS HAVE BEEN SKYROCKETING AND, YOU KNOW, THERE HASN'T REALLY BEEN ANY KIND OF COSTS SKYROCKETING AS WELL. IF YOU LOOK AT THE BALANCE SHEETS, SHE WAS JUST MENTIONING, OF KIND OF THESE LARGE-SCALE LANDLORDS, AGAIN, IT HAS BEEN A GOLDEN AGE OF PROFITS. SO THERE'S A FLIP SIDE OF THAT THAT WHEN YOU'RE MAKING A LOT OF THIS MONEY, YOU NEED TO SALT IT AWAY FOR AN EMERGENCY. AND I MEAN, YEAH, THERE'S SOME SMALL LANDLORDS THAT MAKE UP A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE MARKET THAT MIGHT GO UNDER BECAUSE OF THIS. BUT THE VAST BULK WE FEEL SHOULD HAVE SAVED FOR THIS SORT OF EMERGENCY BECAUSE THEY WERE MAKING A LOT OF MONEY OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS.

Steve says CAN I JUST... PEOPLE MAY BE INTERESTED IN A CLARIFICATION ON THIS. YOU SAY RENTS HAVE BEEN SKYROCKETING. WE HAVE RENT REVIEW IN ONTARIO. THERE'S A FINITE AMOUNT THAT LANDLORDS ARE ALLOWED TO RAISE THEIR RENT. SO WHEN YOU SAY THE RENTS HAVE BEEN SKYROCKETING, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Geordie says WELL, FOR SITTING TENANTS, RENTS ARE, AGAIN, STABLE, AND THEY ONLY GO UP BY INFLATION. BUT I THINK THE AVERAGE TENANT TURNS OVER EVERY FOUR TO FIVE YEARS. WHEN THEY TURN OVER, WHEN THEY MOVE OUT TO A DIFFERENT PROPERTY, YOU KNOW, THERE'S SOMETHING CALLED VACANCY DECONTROL OR A LACK OF VACANCY RENT CONTROL. THAT'S THE SYSTEM THEY HAVE IN QUEBEC, FOR EXAMPLE. AND WHAT THAT SAYS IS WHEN YOU MOVE OUT, THE LANDLORD CAN ONLY RAISE THE RENT A CERTAIN AMOUNT. WELL, WE DON'T HAVE THAT IN ONTARIO. MIKE HARRIS GOT RID OF IT. SO YOU HAVE PEOPLE MOVING OUT OF A ONE BEDROOM THAT COSTS SAY 800 dollars AND THEY LOOK FOR A PLACE AND IT'S NOW 2200 dollars. AND IT'S NOT 2200 dollars BECAUSE LANDLORDS' COSTS HAVE GONE UP THAT MUCH. THAT'S BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THEY CAN GET ON THE MARKET. AGAIN, FOR A LOT OF LANDLORDS, IT'S GRAVY, AND YOU CAN SEE THAT IN PUBLICLY TRADED LANDLORD BALANCE SHEETS, THEY'RE MAKING A LOT OF MONEY. AND, AGAIN, NOW THEY'VE BEEN HIT WITH A CRISIS AND THE HOPE IS THAT THEY'VE PUT MONEY AWAY FOR THAT. BUT MANY HAVEN'T.

Steve says TONY, ARE THERE GOING TO BE SMALL MOM AND POP OPERATIONS THAT ARE GOING TO LOSE THEIR PROPERTIES, DO YOU SUSPECT, BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF REVENUE COMING IN BUT THE OBLIGATION OF THE EXPENSES TO KEEP GOING OUT?

Tony says I THINK THERE CERTAINLY WILL BE, YES. YOU KNOW, I THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY, THOUGH, THE THING THAT'S IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND IS, YOU KNOW, MOST LANDLORDS ARE GOOD AND MOST TENANTS ARE GOOD. WE TALKED EARLIER ABOUT HOW THE MAJORITY OF RENT IS BEING PAID, AND I THINK THAT'S BECAUSE PEOPLE WANT TO PAY THEIR RENT, THEY KNOW THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE OBLIGATED TO DO. YES, THERE ARE SOME... THERE WILL BE SOME SMALL LANDLORDS WHO MAY LOSE THEIR PROPERTY. AND THAT'S OBVIOUSLY NOT SOMETHING ANYONE WANTS TO SEE. WE DO HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS IN THE PROVINCE AND THAT WAS THE CASE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC AND I'M SURE IT WILL BE THE CASE AFTERWARDS. SO, YOU KNOW, THAT CERTAINLY IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO SEE HAPPEN BOTH TO THE PERSON, THE LANDLORD WHO MAY LOSE THEIR INVESTMENT PROPERTY AND THE HOUSING THAT IT'S PROVIDING FOR A FAMILY RIGHT NOW. I THINK THAT'S WHY WE'RE REALLY FOCUSED ON TRYING TO ADVOCATE TO GOVERNMENT TO REALLY PROVIDE ASSISTANCE FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT. AND IN TERMS OF LANDLORDS, WHAT WE'RE DOING NOW, CERTAINLY THERE ARE, YOU KNOW, MANY LANDLORDS WHO ARE PROVIDING, YOU KNOW, RENT PAYMENT PLANS, DEFERRING RENT, ALL KINDS OF THINGS FOR THEIR RESIDENTS WHO ARE UNABLE TO PAY. AND WE DON'T KNOW HOW THAT'S GOING TO PLAY ITSELF OUT. WE KNOW WHAT RESULTS LOOKED LIKE IN APRIL AND WE'RE WATCHING TO SEE WHAT MAY LOOKS LIKE WHICH, FROM A RENT PAYMENT PERSPECTIVE, SEEMS TO BE IN LINE WITH APRIL. BUT WHAT HAPPENS A FEW MONTHS DOWN THE ROAD? WHAT HAPPENS IF FEDERAL PROGRAMS END? YOU KNOW, I THINK THERE'S STILL A LOT THAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN IN TERMS OF HOW THIS PLAYS OUT. AND CERTAINLY OUR ADVICE TO OUR MEMBERS, AGAIN, IS TO REACH OUT, PROVIDE PLANS, WORK WITH YOUR RESIDENTS, AND MANY LANDLORDS ARE DOING JUST THAT.

Steve says WELL, AS WE TRY TO DIVINE WHAT THE FUTURE MAY HOLD, VANMALA, I WANT TO PUT TWO WORDS TO YOU WHICH I AM INCREASINGLY HEARING, AND YOU TELL ME WHETHER THIS IS A THING. AND THE TWO WORDS ARE: RENT STRIKE. THIS IS A MOVEMENT, PARTICULARLY, I WOULD SUSPECT, SOUTH OF THE BORDER, BUT WHAT ARE YOU HEARING IN REGARDS TO A POSSIBLE MOVEMENT OF A RENT STRIKE HERE IN ONTARIO?

Vanmala says WHAT I CAN TELL YOU, STEVE, IS THE RENT STRIKE MOVEMENT, AT LEAST IN TORONTO, HAS REALLY BEEN GAINING STEAM OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS. YOU KNOW, JUST THE CONTEXT OF THIS IS BECAUSE RENTS HAVE BEEN... BECAUSE RENTS HAVE BEEN GOING UP SO MUCH, ESPECIALLY IN CITIES LIKE TORONTO, VANCOUVER, EVEN A PLACE LIKE OTTAWA OVER THE LAST, YOU KNOW, SINCE 2011, THE LAST TEN YEARS, NINE, TEN YEARS OR SO, THESE KIND OF SOLIDARITY MOVEMENTS THAT ARE BUILT AROUND HELPING OTHERS EITHER PAY THEIR RENT OR JOINING IN COMMONALITY AND SOLIDARITY WITH PEOPLE, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO PAY THEIR RENT IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PAY YOUR RENT. THESE THINGS ARE GAINING STEAM. YOU CAN SEE THE NUMBERS ON THE RENT STRIKE FACEBOOK BOOK, THE NUMBERS IN TORONTO HAVE REALLY SKYROCKETED. IF I WAS A LANDLORD, I WOULD REALLY BE WORRIED ABOUT ENGAGING IN PRACTICES LIKE, SAY, YOU KNOW, COMING TO TENANTS AND ASKING THEM TO PAY USING A CREDIT CARD. BECAUSE ONCE THESE THINGS ARE KNOWN, IT JUST FUELS MOMENTUM LIKE THIS, AND THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS I GUESS FOR LANDLORDS. I WOULD SAY ALTHOUGH THAT MOVEMENT IS PRETTY MUCH [indiscernible] LIKE SAN FRANCISCO AND NEW YORK MORE THAN TORONTO, IT HAS BEEN BUILDING THE LAST FEW YEARS BECAUSE OF RENT INCREASES.

Steve says HMM. GEORDIE, DO YOU ENDORSE THE NOTION OF A RENT STRIKE?

Geordie says IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT OUR AGENCY HAS PROMOTED OURSELVES. AND THAT'S MOSTLY BECAUSE WE'RE ACTUALLY AFRAID THAT A LOT OF THE LARGE LANDLORDS WANT IT. THEY WANT ACTUALLY TO PUSH TENANTS OUT DOWN THE ROAD AND JUST JACK UP THE RENTS. BUT, AGAIN, WHICH RENT STRIKE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? ARE WE TALKING ABOUT ALL THE COMMERCIAL OPERATORS THAT ARE DOING THAT RIGHT NOW, OR ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THE TENANTS WHO, YOU KNOW, HAVE JUST LOST ALL THEIR INCOME? YOU KNOW, ONE THING I WILL SAY IS THAT A LOT OF TENANTS ARE IN A JAM RIGHT NOW. THEY'RE NOT GETTING ANY HELP FROM THE FEDS OR THE PROVINCE. MISERY AND WAVES OF EVICTIONS SEEMS TO BE THE PLAN. SO WE DO SUPPORT THE FACT THAT THERE ARE GROUPS OUT THERE THAT ARE TRYING TO ORGANIZE PEOPLE TO TRY TO DEAL WITH THIS AND COLLECTIVELY RESPOND. I THINK THAT'S A GOOD THING BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

Steve says CAN I ASSUME THAT WHETHER A COMMERCIAL TENANT DOES IT OR A RESIDENTIAL TENANT DOES IT, IT'S ILLEGAL JUST TO DECIDE YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY YOUR RENT, AGAIN; IS THAT RIGHT?

Geordie says WELL, DEFINE "ILLEGAL." THERE ARE PROVISIONS IN THE LAW THAT SAY IF YOU DON'T PAY YOUR RENT, X, Y, AND Z HAPPENS. SO I DON'T KNOW THAT YOU'D NECESSARILY CALL IT ILLEGAL. I MEAN, IT'S OBVIOUSLY A VIOLATION OF THE CONTRACT IN THE SENSE THAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO PAY AND YOU HAVEN'T. BUT, AGAIN, PEOPLE DON'T PAY RENT ALL THE TIME. YOU KNOW, A LOT OF COMMERCIAL OPERATORS ARE NOT PAYING RENT RIGHT NOW AND THEY'RE WORKING OUT A DEAL. I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'D LIKE TO SEE. YOU KNOW, IF YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF LARGE-SCALE LANDLORDS MAKING A LOT OF MONEY OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS, YOU MIGHT HAVE TO TAKE A HAIRCUT. JUST HAVE LESS PROFIT, AGAIN DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. WE THINK THESE THINGS ARE BEST SETTLED THROUGH GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. YOU GIVE, YOU KNOW, HUGE SWATHS OF THE POPULATION MONEY OFF THEIR RENT, YOU MAKE LANDLORDS APPLY AND MAYBE THEY, YOU KNOW, GET 80 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THESE ARE PROGRAMS YOU COULD LOOK AT. BUT THE POINT IS THAT YOU CAN'T GET BLOOD FROM A STONE. LANDLORD INCOMES ARE BASED OFF OF TENANT INCOMES, AND TENANT INCOMES HAVE JUST BEEN EVISCERATED. SO, AGAIN, UNLESS YOU WANT, YOU KNOW, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN AN EVICTION QUEUE IN SIX MONTHS, YOU'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THEM.

Steve says TONY, OBVIOUSLY THE LANDLORDS DON'T WANT TO SEE A RENT STRIKE TAKE PLACE. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS THAT THE LANDLORDS WOULD PUT FORWARD THAT MIGHT AVERT SUCH A THING FROM GAINING STEAM?

Tony says YOU'RE RIGHT, STEVE. OUR MEMBERS DON'T WANT RENT STRIKES. WE DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO... WE WANT TO OBVIOUSLY WORK WITH OUR RESIDENTS TO HELP THEM PAY THEIR RENT. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE MASS EVICTIONS. WE DON'T EITHER, ANY MORE THAN ANYBODY ELSE DOES. I'VE BEEN ASKED THIS QUESTION NUMEROUS TIMES. AND WE SIMPLY DO NOT. IN TERMS OF RESIDENTS WHOSE INCOMES HAVE BEEN IMPACTED, ABSOLUTELY, THERE ARE MANY WHO HAVE. THERE ARE OF COURSE ALSO MANY WHOSE INCOMES HAVE NOT BEEN IMPACTED DUE TO THE PANDEMIC, AND FOR THEM, THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO CARRY ON AND FULFIL ALL THEIR OBLIGATIONS THEY DID BEFORE THE PANDEMIC. BUT FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT PAY THEIR RENT BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOST 4 HAVE VERY REAL ISSUES AND IMPACTS ON THEM PERSONALLY, WE NEED TO WORK WITH THEM. THE "WE" IS THE COLLECTIVE WE, GOVERNMENT, LANDLORDS, TENANTS TOGETHER. I THINK THAT HAS TO BE THE PATH FORWARD.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Steve says I WANT TO THANK THE THREE OF YOU FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT AND HELPING US BETTER UNDERSTAND THE LAY OF THE LAND. TONY IRWIN FROM THE FEDERATION OF RENTAL HOUSING PROVIDERS OF ONTARIO; GEORDIE DENT FROM THE FEDERATION OF METRO TENANTS ASSOCIATIONS; AND VANMALA SUBRAMANIAM FROM THE FINANCIAL POST. GOOD TO SEE YOU ALL AND BE SAFE OUT THERE, OKAY, YOU THREE?

Tony says THANKS VERY MUCH.

Vanmala says THANK YOU.

Geordie says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Watch: Rental Challenges during COVID-19