CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As governments in B.C. and Nova Scotia push for eviction bans to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alberta NDP says the same should happen in this province.
Joined by several tenants worried about their futures, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the provincial government needs to do more than is currently happening.
“There is still time for this government to do the right thing,” Notley said Tuesday in Edmonton.
On Monday, Premier Jason Kenney announced some relief measures to help landowners, such as deferring mortgage payments and reversing increases to the Education Property Tax.
But Notley said that is just a drop in the bucket.
“It’s not enough to just encourage landlords to pass down their mortgage and tax deferrals because not all of them will. There are people and families at risk of falling through the cracks.”
Kenney indicated that he would not be a fan of eviction bans as it may remove the right of landlords to protect their property by eliminating tenants who are damaging property or engaging in illegal activity.
Notley said the ban would not give a free pass to bad tenants and is more around protecting Albertans who are in a tenuous situation employment-wise or are in self-isolation and cannot leave their home in the first place.
“This is about making sure not a single person is asked to vacate their homes while being asked to stay home and self-isolate,” she said. “It would not be acceptable simply to say don’t worry, the Sheriffs won’t enforce the evictions notice for a while. I just don’t think evictions should be used as a tool at all right now.”
At the same time, a property management firm responsible for around 2,000 properties is circulating a call for some action from Service Alberta.
Shamon Kureshi, CEO of Hope Street Management Company, is not a fan of eviction bans either, as he believes bad tenants still have to be removed, but some relief is needed.
“April 1st is rent day for about one in three Albertans, and I think a lot of us are nervous,” he said. “One thing we know for sure is that neither the landlords nor the tenants want to see the other party get screwed.”
“However, to a large degree, everyone’s hands are tied.”
He said landlords are facing their own concerns too, as they have to continue with regular tasks like maintenance and emergency repairs, on top of stepping up cleaning practices to limit the spread inside properties.
Kureshi is worried that the pandemic can end up causing a housing crisis, so if landowners can get support from the government, tenants should as well.
“It would seem largely unfair that if the landlords are given this type of relief that the tenants aren’t given some kind of relief as well,” he said. “We’re not asking for hand-outs, we’re asking for a hand up.”
Kureshi suggests options such as interest-free loans or direct rental relief funding.
He added that there hadn’t been a response from Service Alberta yet, though he believes if more people contact the Ministry and express their concerns, then there will be some action taken.
In a statement provided to 660 NEWS, a Service Alberta spokesperson agreed the situation is stressful, but there’s no consideration yet for a ban on evictions.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re providing financial assistance ($1,146 over two weeks) for those Albertans who might be seeing a shortfall due to the pandemic. This money is intended to assist Albertans while they wait for federal programs to begin in April,” the statement reads.
The government is encouraging landlords to “do the right thing” and extend rent deadlines if possible, as well as helping tenants to reach out with any concerns.
Several companies have made it known they will not be enforcing strict guidelines in light of the situation.
Mayfield Management Group Ltd. has posted on their website: “There will be no evictions for non-payment of April’s rent at this time.”
Cornerstone Management has written: “For the months of April and May, late fees will be waived.”
And the Alberta Residential Landlord Association has posted on their website:
“We have been working diligently on ensuring Landlords are heard through this difficult time and have been staying in touch with the Government and City Officials on all issues. We are requesting that the NO EVICTIONS not be implemented at this time; we are asking for further supplements to be given to those that need help with their rent. If landlords receive some support then they could in turn support the tenants.”