Sean Morrison, OREA President
Tomorrow is April 1st and rent cheques across Ontario are due. As President of OREA, I have heard from a large number of tenants and landlords, and the REALTORS® who serve them both, with concerns about how to navigate rental housing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to Ontario landlords, tenants and REALTORS®. I also have advice for the Government of Ontario.
Landlords should clearly be aware that the Provincial government has ordered Ontarians to stay at home, follow public health guidelines and practice social distancing during this COVID-19 pandemic. We all need to put the health of Ontario residents at the top of the priority list. For that reason, OREA is calling on all landlords to stop in-person showings of tenant-occupied properties or seeking another tenant during the State of Emergency.
In particular, tenants with an underlying medical issue or who are otherwise at risk should NEVER be forced to allow strangers into their home during Ontario’s State of Emergency.
Many Ontarians have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 and have fallen on hard financial times. No one should lose their home during a pandemic and that is why OREA supports Ontario’s order to stop all evictions during the State of Emergency.
If tenants can afford to pay their rent, then they should pay. If they cannot, landlords and tenants should work together with support from the Ontario Government to find a solution that protects everyone’s health, safety and financial wellbeing.
Small “mom and pop” landlords are particularly vulnerable to experiencing significant financial hardship if they cannot earn rent, especially during a prolonged State of Emergency. The Province of Ontario has an obligation to help the situation: allowing tenants security in their homes during the crisis is the right thing to do. However, this should go hand in hand with ensuring landlords do not similarly suffer financial hardship, lose their investments and exit the rental market altogether.
Finally, Ontario REALTORS® need to continue to do what is right and act like the professionals they are: suspend all face-to-face business in Ontario. That means, no in-person showings of tenanted properties. Business that can wait until after the State of Emergency, should clearly wait until it ends. REALTORS® have the tools and capabilities to do showings virtually and they should use these tools during the pandemic.
I was pleased to see so many real estate companies, brokerages and real estate agents following my earlier advice to stop open houses and in person showings during the State of Emergency and I want to thank them for putting the Province ahead of their business interests. However, to those who are not following our direction: you need to stop this and focus on the health and well-being of all Ontarians. As you know, REALTORS® who ignore the direction of health officials during their trading activities, will face serious sanctions, including possible disciplinary prosecution by RECO.
At times like these, we all need to work together for the health of our communities.