Zolo Offers Tips for How Landlords Can Help Tenants During COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic will impact virtually every financial sector in Canada. As a landlord, it's time to take stock of what you need to do to protect your rental property while figuring out how to help your tenants. For most, it starts with a letter (or phone call).
Given the unprecedented health crisis we are all facing, landlords need to consider their role in the current initiatives to "flatten the curve" (reduce the spread and rate of COVID-19 infection), as well as the best practises for communicating and helping tenants in the near term and going forward.
As a market-leader in the Canadian real estate marketplace with more than nine million users starting their property search each month on Zolo.ca, here are tips for all types of landlords. Whether you run an short-term rental business, you rent out a suite in your home, you’re a small-business landlord or a larger corporate management company, here’s a list of best practices along with some key points for each type of landlord in the current rental marketplace.
Airbnb suite owners
Any landlord with an Airbnb suite that had reservations that were confirmed on or before March 14, 2020, can seek compensation from Airbnb under the firm’s "extenuating circumstances" policy.
Keep in mind, however, if a guest checked in prior to March 14, 2020, you and your guest are not eligible for the refund.
Homeowners with rental suites
As a landlord, you are required to “maintain a safe rental unit and residential property.” This includes appropriate cleanliness and, in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, this should include extra vigilance of cleaning routines in public areas.
Consider more frequent cleaning of public and shared spaces as well as high-traffic areas. For instance, schedule handle and handrail wipedowns to be sprayed and wiped down with disinfectant at least two times per day (more, if there are more tenants or family members using communal spaces).
Landlords (those who do not solely rely on rental income)
Landlords who do not live in the same premise as tenants need to implement rigorous cleaning regimes. This means more frequent cleaning of high traffic areas, such as lobbies, elevators and laundry rooms.
Consider implementing schedules for the use of common areas, such as laundry rooms.
Business or corporate landlords
If you operate a rental business, consider implementing more structural short-term changes. For instance, require building managers and all other employees to wear gloves and carry disinfectant cleaner. Also, consider placing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in common areas to promote cleanliness. Add signs and visual reminders of how and when to clean hard surfaces and wash hands.
You may also consider asking tenants to start an online sign-up schedule to book and use laundry or dog-washing facilities. Consider closing shared facilities, such as gyms and recreation rooms.
Financial help for landlords
**Talk to your bank or lender to see if you qualify for a mortgage payment deferral. This deferral could extend for as long as six months and enable landlords (and tenants) to recover from financial set back prompted by the coronavirus. For many landlords, this won't be an option (as most deferrals are only approved on principal residence mortgages), but if you require help it's best to talk to your lender as soon as possible.
**Apply for wage subsidies, such as EI sickness benefits, EI for temporary lay-offs and wage support for self-employed Canadians (both of which will be available starting April 2020).
**Take advantage of the extended tax payment deadlines that allow you to postpone paying taxes owed until after August 31, 2020. No penalties or interest will accrue on these deferred amounts.
**If you employ people as part of your rental business, explore the $10 billion credit facility program the federal government offers. The money is earmarked to help lend money to businesses under stress as a result of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
**If you pay utilities, contact your local provider. Many utility companies will allow you to defer payments or set up payment plans to reduce the burden of utility bills. If you’re really struggling, consider applying for a utility grant. While not all provider offer this option, it allows you to get access to free money (a grant) that helps pay outstanding utility fees.
Help your tenants
Regardless of how your rental business is structured, it’s time to help.
While full relief from all payments is challenging, due to ongoing expenses, such as water, gas, hydro and building maintenance (all costs that could increase in the coming weeks and months), it’s critical to communicate with your tenants and for everyone to work together in order to get through this coronavirus crisis.
Zolo is one of Canada's most popular online national real estate marketplaces. Each month, more than 9 million buyers and sellers start their real estate search using Zolo. As a tech-disruptor national brokerage, Zolo provides users the data and resources needed to make better-informed property decisions.
Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer and real estate expert. She writes for big banks, insurance providers, newspapers along with businesses. She is an expert that is sought after by media to comment and give insight on personal finance and real estate issues.
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Director of Content at Zolo and award-winning personal finance writer