commercial evictions ontario

Toronto Mayor criticizes commercial landlords for kicking out tenants who can't pay rent

If commercial landlords within the City of Toronto keep evicting small business owners who can't pay their full rent due to an eight-week-long (and counting) mandatory closure order, Toronto Mayor John Tory says that the government will have no choice but to step in.

Tory took square aim on Friday at commercial property owners who've effectively killed dozens of small businesses for good in recent weeks by kicking them to the curb amid a global pandemic.

"I have been informed this week repeatedly that there are still too many commercial landlords out there who are just refusing to explore or discuss the payment of rent by their shop and business tenants," said Tory during his daily COVID-19 press conference this afternoon.

Tory also noted that he's heard of many landlords who are "refusing or not interested in making an application under the federal-provincial commercial rent assistance program (OCECRA)."

"I realize some of the initial criteria in the program made it less attractive for some landlords to apply, but my understanding is that changes to bring that program more into conformity with what people need are under consideration," said Tory of the benefit, which sees government agencies chip in a full 50 per cent of rent for businesses amid the pandemic.

Being that its up to landlords to apply, however, many simply aren't. Some say it's too complicated. Some won't accept a mere 75 per cent of the rent (business tenants put forward 25 per cent of the rent in addition to what the government pays under OCECRA.)

Unlike residential tenants, who are protected from eviction thanks to a temporary, province-wide ban, business owners can still be evicted from their spaces at any time, but this could soon change if landlords keep refusing to play ball.

"The real bottom line is this: all commercial landlords should be working out some arrangement to defer rent or otherwise work out something reasonable with their small business tenants," said Tory on Friday.

"This is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense," Tory continued, explaining that forcing a business to close would leave a landlord with one more vacant property on their hands "when we already have far too many of those."

Tory isn't the first politician to float the idea of banning commercial evictions, but he's certainly the most powerful — and he didn't mince words about what could happen in the future during today's press conference.

"If more landlords don't start doing the right thing, I believe the Ford government will have no alternative but to ban commercial evictions, as I have been urging them to do for several weeks now," said Tory. "At least during the period of the emergency."

Whatever happens, something's got to give. At this rate, it won't be long until Toronto has no local businesses left to enjoy when the lockdown ends.

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