Coworking spaces in Toronto continue to charge rent during lockdown even though they're empty
Many people who are members of coworking spaces in Toronto are angry that they're still being charged membership fees and the offices haven't officially been closed, despite the pandemic.
Spaces is one such coworking offering with locations around the world including one near Queen and John in Toronto.
A member there says she was shocked when she received "zero information" about their COVID-19 policy and that she got charged for March and April even though she is not using the space.
When she called the company to tell them she couldn't use the space because of the government shelter-in-place advisories, she claims they told her "we can't do anything about it" and recommended she cancel her membership.
"I spent $400 for a space I've never used," she said.
She's one of the luckier ones as she only pays for the lowest level membership, but the membership fees can vary from a few hundred dollars a month to thousands of dollars.
"I know they're charging everyone who's in their space and can't use it," the Spaces member who wished to remain anonymous told blogTO.
And the issue isn't just Toronto, around the world people are furious at Spaces, owned by Regus Global, for their lack of response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Do they really want me going and possibly infecting others? I simply asked to withhold billing for one month because I got furloughed and my son's girlfriend got exposed," wrote member, Jack Redding, on Twitter.
Do they really want me going and possibly infecting others? I simply asked to withhold billing for one month because I got furloughed and my sons girlfriend got exposed. You have lost a customer and many more forever.— Jack Redding (@JackRedding1) April 5, 2020
"Spaces is taking advantage of small businesses in these hard times. It's very smart to charge service fees for servicing empty buildings. Poor business owners who are now hostages at Spaces. Those who ever consider renting co-working space, stay away from Spaces. They showed their true face during this crisis," wrote Rashad Aabbasov on Facebook.
Please do something to help your Spaces community. We are being responsible and staying at home to help save lives. You are doing nothing to help us. Businesses are failing and the only communication we ever receive from Spaces is an invoice. Spaces showing their true colours.— Feelgood Creative (@Feelgoodcreativ) April 3, 2020
When asked for comment, Spaces didn't respond to blogTO as to why they're remaining open or continuing to charge membership fees.
According to Business Matters Magazine, however, they told customers in emails that they're “ensuring continuity of service wherever possible including meeting our obligations to our landlords”, adding: “Therefore is it is important that we do not have a gap in payments during this time.”
They've also told customers that the choice to work remotely is: "Up to each individual organisation to make for their individual employees.”
And Spaces isn't the only co-working space who are staying open. In fact, it's the norm.
WeWork locations in Toronto are still open, despite the pandemic and multiple COVID-19 infections at their offices in the United States.
Adrian Zamora, a WeWork spokesperson, told blogTO it was because many of its members' companies are essential businesses.
"WeWork is home to many members whose companies are critical businesses to our society - whether they be in healthcare, insurance, cleaning product supplies or others - that are relying on us in order to continue operating."
"For that reason, WeWork locations in Toronto remain open and accessible to members. As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to supporting our members and will continuously evolve our plans," he said in an email statement.
A popular coworking space in the Financial District, The Professional Centre (TPC), is also still open.
"It is our members’ responsibility to ascertain if they are deemed as an ‘essential business’, who are ‘essential workers’ and whether the workforce reduction order applies to their employees," TPC President Ezra Rozenweig said in a statement.
And iQ Offices, which has multiple locations in Toronto, are also open but are operating in "after-hours" mode.
"These are unprecedented times. Each decision presents multiple consequences. Therefore, we remain vigilantly focused on first the health and well-being of those we serve, and second on supporting them to the best of our ability," CEO Kane Willmott said in a statement.
Since the influx of complaints, Spaces' customers, including the Toronto member blogTO spoke to, have been offered a 100% credit on their April and May membership fees, but only if they convert their contract to a fixed six month agreement.
But the Toronto Spaces member who spoke to blogTO decided she'd rather just cancel her membership.
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