COVID-19: The Impact on Residential Tenants and Landlords in Alberta

By Julie Alton, Associate

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many Albertans in a difficult financial situation. For some, they may not be able to pay their rent on time until financial assistance is received. This sudden change in the economic reality for many Alberta tenants prompted the provincial government to make substantial changes to the laws that apply to landlords and tenants.

The changes affect evictions, rent increases and late payment penalties, and apply only to residential tenancies in Alberta. They do not apply to commercial tenancies like restaurants, retail stores, office spaces, or other businesses.

The changes are summarized below. Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, it is important to know how these changes might affect you. This information is current only to the date of posting.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES?

Eviction Process

  • As of March 27, 2020, the government suspended all eviction orders for non-payment of rent and/or utilities until after April 30, 2020. This means that if you are a landlord, you cannot evict a tenant if they do not pay their rent or utilities for the time being. If you are a tenant, this gives you breathing room if you need it.
  • It is not clear whether the timeframe of April 30th will be extended. Presuming it is not extended, after April 30, 2020, in order to evict a tenant, the landlord must prove that:
    • it entered into an agreed payment plan with the tenant and the tenant then failed to comply with the payment plan; or,
    • it made reasonable efforts to enter into a meaningful payment plan with the tenant.
  • However, this change does not mean that a tenant cannot be evicted under any circumstances. A landlord can still evict a tenant for other breaches of the legislation governing residential tenancies (i.e. if a tenant significantly damages the premises or commits an illegal act on the premises).


Rent Increases

  • Any new rent increases, or pre-existing rent increases scheduled to take effect, have been suspended.
  • This applies to situations where a fixed-term tenancy has expired and the landlord and tenant are entering into a new tenancy agreement for the same premises.


Late Payment Penalties

  • Landlords cannot charge tenants late fees from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
  • Landlords cannot get around this by retroactively collecting late fees from tenants after June 30, 2020.
HOW LONG WILL THESE CHANGES LAST?

It is not clear how long these changes will remain in effect because of the overall uncertainty about the length of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the time being, the government has stated that the changes to the law will lapse upon the earlier of:

  • August 14, 2020;
  • The end of the state of public health emergency in Alberta; or
  • When the Minister or the Lieutenant Governor in Council end the changes.

As with many things related to COVID-19, it is possible that timelines will fluctuate. Only time will tell.

CONCLUSION

The legislation governing residential tenancies has changed significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. These changes will have a substantial impact on the ability of landlords of residential properties to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, charge late payment penalties, and impose rent increases on tenants.

If you require guidance or advice on a residential tenancy, please reach out to us. If you are a member of the Alberta Residential Landlord Association, reach out to that organization for webinar content created in conjunction with RMRF.

The above is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this post to be outdated.