The Ontario legislature has just approved a temporary ban on commercial evictions to stop landlords from locking small business owners out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the provincial government announced it had passed the Protecting Small Business Act, temporarily halting or reversing evictions of commercial tenants and protecting them from being locked out or having their assets seized during COVID-19.
The legislation applies to businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance for evictions from May 1, 2020, until August 31, 2020.
"We know COVID-19 has had a significant impact on small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
"This Legislation will allow us to protect small businesses and help them get back on their feet so they can continue to create jobs and participate in the rebuilding of the provincial economy."
The pause on evictions does not apply to those participating in CECRA for small businesses, as the program requires landlords to enter into a rent reduction agreement with their impacted small business tenants and commits them to a moratorium on evictions for three months.
Earlier this month, applications opened for the CECRA program, which is a multi-level partnership between the Ontario and federal government that provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50% of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May and June 2020. The tenant is then responsible for covering up to 25% of the rent so that up to 75% of the rent is covered for the landlord.
Through CECRA, Ontario is committing $241 million for small businesses, while the federal government is providing more than $900 million in support.
This announcement comes as Premier Ford, on multiple occasions, threatened action against commercial landlords – who he referred to as “greedy” – for refusing to participate in federal rent relief measures.
The provincial government previously put a temporary ban on residential evictions to help residents struggling during the COVID pandemic, but until now had yet to take any steps to protect commercial tenants.