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Alberta increases security for renters, restricts public gatherings due to COVID-19

Monday, March 30, 2020 @ 11:52 AM | By Ian Burns


The government of Alberta announced that it is bringing in protections for renters and additional restrictions on public gatherings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rental protections mean, effective immediately, tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent and/or utilities before May 1. Rents will not increase while Alberta’s state of public health emergency remains in effect, and late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments for the next three months.

Effective April 1, landlords and tenants need to work together to develop payment plans while the state of public health emergency is in effect.

“We want to be clear: As of today, no one will be facing immediate eviction from their home for non-payment of rent or utilities owed to the landlord,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “Additionally, tenants will not face increasing financial pressure from rent increases or fees for late rent payments. We are expecting landlords and tenants to work together to figure out payment plans that help everyone meet financial obligations as we manage COVID-19, and we are doing further policy work on support for renters during these tough times.”

While Alberta is in a state of public health emergency, landlords must attempt to work out a payment plan with tenants who are unable to make their full rent when payment is due. The Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) will not hear applications that could lead to eviction due to non-payment unless a reasonable attempt has been made to work out a payment plan.

Until the state of public health emergency has been lifted, landlords cannot raise the rent on residential properties or mobile home sites, even if notice of an increase has already been given. Until June 30, landlords cannot further penalize tenants who are late on rent by charging late fees, even if the signed rental agreement states that a late fee can be applied. Landlords will also not be able to retroactively collect late fees for this period.

These protections are required by new ministerial orders under the Residential Tenancies Act and the Mobile Homes Sites Tenancies Act. Landlords can still file applications and receive orders for possession if the reason for the eviction is unrelated to rent and/or utility payments (e.g. safety concerns, tenant engaging in criminal activity).

In addition to the rental measures, mass gatherings will be limited to 15 people and more restrictions will be placed on available services.

Restrictions will be in place for the following classifications of business:
  • Close contact businesses including hair salons and barbershops, tattoo and piercing studios, esthetic services, as well as wellness studios and clinics and non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Dine-in restaurants will no longer be able to offer dine-in service. Takeout and delivery services will continue to be available.
  • Non-essential retail services that fall into the categories of clothing, computer and gaming stores, and services in shopping malls and shopping centres such as hobby and toys, gift and specialty items and furniture.

In addition, people are prohibited from attending gatherings of more than 15, and they must observe two metres of social distancing. This includes:
  • Open spaces such as trails, fields and parks
  • Public and private gatherings where people are brought together in a single room or space at the same time, including funerals, weddings and other formal and informal events.

A more complete list of affected businesses is available online.

“These are aggressive measures and we don’t take them lightly. We need to do everything we can to flatten the curve and keep people healthy,” said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw. “I strongly encourage all Albertans to stay close to home as we are all in this together. Our collective action will protect our family, friends and neighbours.”

Workplaces that have not been ordered to close can continue to have more than 15 workers on a worksite as long as those businesses maintain public health measures, including two-metre social distancing, hygiene enforcement and processes that ensure that any person who is ill does not attend these spaces. Any business or organization not following the public health order will be subject to a fine. Courts have the power to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.