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One landlord, a senior citizen, told The Logic he asked his tenants to help pay for a lawyer to help complete the “insane” amounts of paperwork. Another, a large property owner, said the process was so “onerous” they were looking to find four or five employees to work on it full time for a month, just to help their 400-plus tenants qualify. Both landlords asked not to be identified because they worried about compromising their CECRA applications, and for fear of backlash from tenants.
Brooks says he doesn’t know any property owner who is not applying, but the data shows landlords aren’t participating in the droves government officials expected. One major problem, for example, is how to prove that your tenant has lost 70 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 revenue in the time that they were closed. Brooks wrote to the federal government, proposing an easier alternative: “a commercial rent bank” to support businesses throughout the pandemic, dovetailing off the existing Canada Emergency Business Account program. That would ensure landlords, who were already deferring rent in some cases until spring 2021, weren’t losing income en masse, and small businesses were given a real shot at survival.
“We didn’t get a response to that request,” Brooks says. He and his colleagues were surprised when the rent-relief program was announced, he says. Property owners had “zero input” in its creation, yet Ottawa was asking them to write off part of their revenue stream. In a letter to the government, BOMA Canada, a real estate industry association, urged Ottawa to reconsider its approach, saying that “transferring economic pain from one party to another, without mitigating the pain itself and without providing a principled reason for doing so, only complicates the financial challenge.” Benjamin Shinewald, the group’s CEO, describes CECRA as Ottawa essentially “rewriting the terms of contracts between two private parties, which is fundamentally wrong.” His group has asked for a more balanced approach, and in the meantime, Shinewald says, “We figured we’d hold our nose and do it.”