Housing rights groups call for suspension of rents as tenants, landlords work out deals

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Housing rights advocates are calling for a temporary suspension of rent payments until federal relief reaches those who need it.

“We've been asking the Quebec government to actually suspend all rents for April unless there's money coming from the Quebec government to help tenants to make payments for April,” said Maxime Roy-Allard of the Association of Housing Committees.

April 1 is fast approaching, and scores of tenants in Quebec are nervous about how they’re going to make the rent.

“I applied for unemployment but I'm still worried until I get confirmation in the mail,” said tenant Sara Feldman. “I always paid my rent on time, never late. I’ve never, never had a problem with that.”

Landlords are being asked to show compassion and flexibility -- but that request isn’t so simple. Three-quarters of Quebec landlords own fewer than three dwellings, and many aren’t able to manage it themselves.

Landlord Nav Francis was able to suspend mortgage payments to the benefit of tenants.

“It was a win-win for both of us. But he's been a good tenant for me, never missed a payment. I would have taken it for at least one month because I could help out somebody in that situation,” said Francis.

But it’s a case-by-case approach and misinformation has created confusion. Despite rumours circulating on social media, Quebec did not suspend the payment of rents on April 1.

Landlords are warning tenants that if they don't pay or fall behind, they could face serious consequences. 

Feldman said she managed to work out a deal with her landlord.

“We came to an agreement that I’m going to pay half of the rent on the first and then we're going see what (happens) with the unemployment and all that,” she said.

RENT INCREASES 

April 1 is also the deadline in Quebec for landlords to notify tenants of a rent increase.

Tenants have the right to reject the increase, putting the onus on the landlords and the rental board to justify it. They have 30 days to accept or reject an increase.

Another important note for tenants: the rental board has suspended all evictions for the time being.  

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