Proposed legislation will safeguard businesses from eviction, and more, as Alberta deals with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill 23, the Commercial Tenancies Protection Act, would protect eligible commercial tenants from having their leases terminated due to non-payment of rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, the act would also prevent landlords from raising rent and charging late fees and penalties on missed rent.
The new measures will help address shortfalls in the current Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, and will give eligible business owners peace of mind as they reopen and help with the provincial economic recovery.
“Alberta has the most generous support models for small businesses in Canada, but we know that more supports are needed. We’re listening to Alberta’s business community, and we’re responding to their needs. If passed, these protections will provide businesses with more protection as they reopen and rehire staff as we move through the phases of relaunch and recovery.”Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
The legislation and upcoming regulation would cover the period from March 17 to Aug. 31, and would apply to:
- Commercial tenants with tenancy agreements that would be eligible for the CECRA program, but whose landlords have chosen not to participate.
- Commercial lease agreements where tenants have had to close their business due to public health orders or have had their business revenue decline by 25 per cent or more as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If passed, any late fees, penalties or rent increases imposed on a commercial tenant by their landlord between March 17 and Aug. 31 would need to be reimbursed, however, the legislation would not undo any evictions or lease terminations that happened before the legislation was tabled.
“As small businesses move into reopening, many are facing lower revenues and fear not being able to make rent payments. Today’s announcement of commercial eviction legislation will provide a safety net for those small businesses unable to access the CECRA and will help them reopen and continue their operations.”Annie Dormuth, Alberta provincial affairs director, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Many businesses have experienced a dramatic decrease in revenues, while other businesses have temporarily ceased operations as a result of COVID-19.
“This moratorium legislation will reduce the anxiety and fear small businesses had of being evicted from their premises during the pandemic. Businesses who faced a potential eviction for non-payment of rent due to substantial revenue decreases can feel a bit more reassured of their chances of reopening.”Ken Kobly, president and CEO, Alberta Chamber of Commerce
Rent and labour are two of the largest expenses for small businesses, typically accounting for 50 to 60 per cent of total operating expenses.
“Restaurants Canada appreciates the government coming to the table with this much-needed commercial rent protection legislation. The inability to pay rent with little or no revenue for the past few months, combined with the inability to convince landlords to participate in the CECRA program or other rent relief arrangements, is the No.1 concern for the majority of Alberta’s restaurants. The legislation introduced today will provide the time needed for restaurant tenants and their landlords to agree to long-term rent solutions without worrying about evictions.”Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president, Western Canada, Restaurants Canada
The act would also help ensure landlords don’t miss out on deferred rent by requiring tenants and landlords to work together to develop a rent payment plan for missed payments.
Alberta has a comprehensive response to COVID-19 including measures to enhance physical distancing, screening and testing. Financial supports are helping Alberta families and businesses.