Manitoba Extends Provisions to Protect Tenants During COVID-19

Update: On June 22, 2020, the government of Manitoba announced that the measures put in place to assist residential tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended until September 30, 2020.

The government of Manitoba has made temporary amendments to The Residential Tenancies Act in response to economic challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This article provides residential landlords with a summary of these temporary measures and the effects they will have on a landlord’s rights and obligations during this period.

While these temporary measures impact certain rights and obligations, there are various other landlord rights and obligations that may remain unchanged during this period. Landlords are encouraged to contact MLT Aikins with any questions regarding the temporary measures or their rights generally.

What are the changes?

Rent increases are temporarily frozen from April 1, 2020 onward.

A residential landlord may still issue an annual notice for rent increase during the temporary freeze period associated with COVID-19, but that increase will only take effect once the freeze is lifted. A landlord will be required to reimburse a tenant for the excess amount of rent actually paid based on a notice of rent increase that was to take effect on or after April 1. However, any rent increases that took effect prior to April 1 are unaffected; tenants will still be required to pay the increased rent for the duration of the freeze period.

Late fees prohibited if tenant fails to pay rent.

While a tenant is still obligated to pay rent in full and on time, a landlord is now temporarily prohibited from charging late fees if the tenant fails to pay rent. This prohibition stands regardless of whether the tenancy agreement allows the landlord to apply late fees generally.

Notices of termination prohibited unless health and safety risk.

A residential landlord is prohibited from issuing a notice of termination unless there is a safety concern or unlawful activity that poses an immediate health and safety risk. The temporary measures provide that a notice of termination issued on or after March 24, 2020 for any reason other than an immediate risk to health and safety is void.

Non-urgent eviction hearings postponed effective March 24, 2020.

Non-urgent eviction hearings before the Residential Tenancies Commission are temporarily suspended and will be rescheduled after the suspension period is lifted. Non-urgent matters have been outlined to include a tenant’s failure to pay rent, renovation issues, disturbances that do not pose health and safety risks, and breaches of tenancy agreements. A residential landlord may still evict a tenant during the suspension period for unlawful activity or for safety concerns that pose an immediate health and safety risk. A landlord should properly document the details of an urgent eviction.

Non-urgent appeal hearings postponed.

Non-urgent appeal hearings before the Residential Tenancies Board will not be scheduled until further notice. Appeal hearings dealing with urgent evictions will take place by teleconference or in person with social distancing measures.

What are the options for a landlord?

With the exception of urgent evictions as detailed above, a residential landlord may not evict a tenant during the temporary suspension period. In the event that a tenant fails to pay rent, a landlord may consider the following options:

Initiate an application for an order of possession.

A landlord may consider initiating an application for an order of possession once the suspension period is lifted. However, the landlord should be aware that the hearing will not be scheduled until the suspension is lifted.

Negotiate alternative payment arrangements.

A residential landlord may also consider negotiating a flexible solution with the tenant that provides for alternative payment arrangements. Any agreement to temporarily alter the terms of the tenancy agreement should be properly documented and signed by both the landlord and the tenant, and should detail the time period associated with the temporary agreement. The landlord should also maintain detailed records of all payments received.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible rights or remedies. Readers should consult lease agreements for further rights and obligations. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.

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