Ontario Supporting Renters and Small Businesses in COVID-19 Recovery

Ontario Supporting Renters and Small Businesses in COVID-19 Recovery

September 17, 2020

Families and small businesses continue to be impacted by COVID-19. In response, Ontario has introduced the proposed Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020 to freeze residential rent increases in 2021, and give the vast majority of Ontario’s 1.7 million tenants some relief during these unprecedented times. The proposed legislation would also support Ontario’s small businesses by extending the temporary ban on commercial evictions, and it will make legislative changes to create a single register of electors for both municipal and provincial elections.

The Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act includes the following proposed changes:

Residential Tenancies Act (RTA)

The Residential Tenancies Act sets out the formula for calculating the maximum allowable rent increase for the next year in rent-controlled units. The proposed changes would make the 2021 rent increase guideline zero per cent and freeze annual rent increases from January 1, 2021 and lasting until December 31, 2021.

The freeze would apply to the vast majority of rental units covered by the RTA, including those first occupied after November 15, 2018, which are typically exempt from rent control. If passed, no rent increases could come into effect during the freeze period, even if a rent increase notice was provided. Households living in rent-geared-to-income housing will also have their rent capped at 2020 levels.

Landlords would still be required to give at least 90 days’ notice for any rent increase that will take effect in 2022. Notices for an eligible 2022 increase may be issued in 2021.

 Exceptions to the freeze would include:

  • Some above-guideline increases in rent, which allow landlords to invest in repairs and upgrades to their aging rental buildings, that are approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board; and
  • Agreed upon rent increases – where a landlord and tenant agree upon an increase in rent in exchange for an extra service or facility, such as air conditioning or parking.

Above guideline increases would not be allowed for increases in municipal property taxes during the rent freeze, unless they were already approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board before the proposed legislation receives Royal Assent.

Commercial Tenancies Act (CTA)

As part of Ontario’s response to help business recover from COVID-19, proposed changes would extend the temporary ban on evictions of small business tenants and protect them from being locked out or having their assets seized.

This extension would continue to apply to businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance under the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses program, if their landlord chose not to apply for the program.

The amendments would apply to evictions that occur on or after September 1, 2020 to align with the extended CECRA for small businesses program. Landlords who evicted tenants or seized their assets between September 1, 2020 and the date the amendments come into force would be required to return any unsold goods and let the tenant back into the unit.

Ontario initially banned commercial evictions from May 1, 2020 until August 31, 2020. Extending the ban would allow Ontario to continue to protect small businesses and help them get back on their feet so they can create jobs and help rebuild the economy.

Municipal Elections Act, Municipal Act, Election Act, Assessment Act, and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation Act

The proposed amendments would create a single register of electors for municipal and provincial elections that would be used by Elections Ontario and municipalities. A single list is expected to be more accurate, and could mean fewer corrections for voters at polling stations, and fewer delays for people on election day.

These changes would cut red tape and help make voting easier for voters, candidates and municipal clerks in time for the 2026 regular municipal elections and any municipal by-elections initiated after January 1, 2024.

The single list would be managed by Elections Ontario. Currently, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation provides municipalities with a preliminary list of people eligible to vote for every municipal election. Municipal clerks then correct and revise this list to develop the voters list.