A sign hangs in the window of a west Toronto apartment on Thursday March 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Ontario government has issued an emergency order temporarily halting the enforcement of residential evictions.

The order comes the same day that a provincewide stay-at-home order goes into effect to curb the spread of COVID-19.

According to the province, the order will also protect homeowners whose properties are being repossessed by court order.

Evictions were temporarily halted during the first wave of the pandemic last spring as well, but were allowed to resume in August.

Tenants’ rights groups and advocates for those experiencing homelessness have been calling for months for a long-term halt to evictions.

While the Landlord and Tenant Board will continue to hear eviction applications and issue eviction orders, those orders will not be carried out while the province is under a state of emergency.

The halt on evictions will be in effect as long as the province remains under a state of emergency.

"By temporarily pausing residential evictions, we are ensuring that all Ontarians are able to stay home, stay safe, and save lives," Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a release. "Our government will ensure that residential evictions continue to be paused for the remainder of the state of emergency, as long as it lasts."

Clark encouraged landlords and tenants to work together and said that tenants who are able to pay their rent must continue to do so to the best of their ability.

The provincial stay-at-home order means that aside from venturing out for essentials such as groceries and medicine, people are expected to stay home as much as possible.

Responding to the halt on eviction enforcement, NDP Tenant Rights critic Suze Morrison said it doesn’t go far enough.

"Thousands of people in Ontario are at risk of being thrown out of their homes, through no fault of their own, after losing income this year because of COVID-19. Calling off the sheriffs at the eleventh hour from enforcing evictions that have already been ordered will not keep folks housed and safe," Morrison said.

Morrison called for a ban on all eviction notices, hearings and orders in addition to a halt on enforcement for the duration of the pandemic.

The NDP also said that that virtual eviction hearings have been “rife with procedural unfairness.”

"Doug Ford has baked in loopholes you could drive a truck through, allowing any evictions to continue at the discretion of the Landlord and Tenant Board,” Morrison said.

The NDP is also calling for rent relief for those who have lost income during the pandemic.

Tenants being threatened with lockout can contact the province’s Rental Housing Enforcement Unit for help.