COVID-19 has brought dramatic changes in our daily lives. Nova Scotia declared a Provincial State of Emergency on March 22, 2020, which as of this writing, has been extended until at least May 3, 2020. This article addresses some of the changes that are affecting landlords and tenants in Nova Scotia.
On March 19, 2020, Premier Stephen McNeil announced several measures which affect Nova Scotians. Included in these was the declaration that “no tenant can be evicted because their income has been impacted by COVID-19, effective immediately for the next three months.”1
During these unprecedented times, we encourage tenants and landlords to communicate to see if an arrangement can be worked out when a tenant’s income has been affected by COVID-19.
What does this mean for Landlords?
Usually, a landlord can end a tenancy due to (1) rental arrears, (2) breach of statutory conditions, (3) a new owner will be occupying the premises, or (4) additional circumstances.2
My tenant has not paid rent, what can I do?
If a tenant does not pay rent, a landlord should serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit for failure to pay rent. If the tenant still does not pay the rent owing, normally a landlord may then apply to the Director of Residential Tenancies to end the lease because of unpaid rent.
As of this writing, Residential Tenancies Nova Scotia is not accepting any forms or applications in their offices. Instead, parties must call the office directly to explain the situation. If your situation is deemed to be an emergency by Residential Tenancies, it will be reviewed and may proceed via telephone hearing.
At this time, it appears that very few situations where rent is unpaid will be considered an emergency. The entire rent due remains owing; however, it is likely that the landlord will not be able to act immediately to end the tenancy at this time.
If you are in this situation, you may wish to serve your tenant with a Form D to assist in moving forward once COVID related restrictions are lifted. It is important to note that the situation is changing rapidly. We would recommend consulting with a lawyer regarding your specific situation and options.
What about options 2, 3 and 4?
If a landlord in good faith wishes to evict a tenant for other reasons, the landlord may call the Residential Tenancies Office and explain the situation. Some applications are still being heard on an emergency basis as determined by Residential Tenancies.
If a tenant poses a risk to the safety or security of the landlord or other tenants in the building, the premises is no longer livable, the tenant has not complied with a statutory condition (these can include some behavioural issues or failure of the tenant to meet obligations or responsibilities), or you have sold the property and a new owner intends to occupy the unit, you may serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit.
If the tenant does not agree to leave on the Notice date, you should contact Residential Tenancies directly to explain the situation. At that point, your matter will be considered by a Residential Tenancies Officer. If it is determined that your matter is an emergency, the matter may then proceed as directed by Residential Tenancies.
The type of Notice to Quit to provide your tenant varies based on the circumstances. All Notice to Quit forms can be found at https://beta.novascotia.ca/residential-tenancy-forms.
If you have any questions regarding your specific situation, or which form to use, we would recommend contacting a lawyer.
What does this mean for Tenants?
If you cannot pay your rent because of COVID-19 related income loss, you cannot be evicted until after June 19, 2020.
If you are more than 15 full days late on your rent (not including the day rent was due, and the day you are served), your landlord can serve you with a Notice to Quit (also called a Form D). This notice will inform that you have fifteen days to pay rent or the landlord in normal circumstances can file an Order to Vacate with Residential Tenancies.
At this time, the Residential Tenancies office is only accepting matters on an emergency basis. The current policy is that you cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent if your income was interrupted because of COVID-19.
If a hearing goes forward because you have failed to pay rent, you may be asked to provide proof that your income has been affected by COVID-19.
This does not mean that your rent is not still owing. You remain responsible for paying rent according to the terms of your lease and if you can pay rent, you should.
This is a temporary measure put in place to protect vulnerable Nova Scotians until they could access government funding. If you have the money to pay rent, you should continue to do so during this time.
Residential Tenancies and the Province have not yet released any directives regarding the end of the three month deferral period. As of this writing, if you have not paid the rent owing before at least June 19, 2020, your landlord could proceed with a Residential Tenancies hearing and you could be evicted for unpaid rent. If you are unable to pay your rent, one option is contacting your landlord directly to arrange a temporary payment plan while your income is affected.
The situation continues to develop as government announces new policies relating to residential tenants in Nova Scotia. To discuss your unique situation and explore your options, please contact a member of our Business Litigation team to request a consultation.
1 Nova Scotia Provincial New Release, March 19, 2020, accessed April 22, 2020 https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20200319004
2 Nova Scotia Provincial Website: Residential Tenancy Forms, accessed April 22, 2020 https://beta.novascotia.ca/residential-tenancy-forms