Thursday, March 26, 2020

Updated Letter to Tenant, Keeping Lines of Communication Open

Here's an amended letter I drafted that landlords may want to use.  It includes some changes with the known government benefits.

This is not legal advice.  This may brick your device :-).

You need to modify this letter to make it fit your individual circumstances and tenancy conditions.  I hope you find it helpful:

SAMPLE LETTER FOR TENANTS – CUSTOMIZE TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS

March 26rd, 2020

Dear Tenant:

I wanted to reach out to you in this difficult time.  We don’t know when things will return to any sense of normalcy, but I wanted to make sure we keep lines of communication open, and make sure everyone stays safe.  

Toronto Public Health is the most credible and reliable source of information about COVID-19 in Toronto. The toronto.ca/coronavirus website, which Toronto Public Health updates regularly, has a wealth of information on the current situation, on how to protect yourself, what to do if you're sick after you travel and how to recognize possible symptoms.

If you are in quarantine or are infected, please let us know immediately so that we can protect others and not further the spread.

I wanted to talk to you about three tenancy issues: (Maybe more, depending on your layout)

MAINTENANCE
During this time, we would appreciate if you hold off on minor maintenance requests as we don’t want to leave our homes, nor do you want us in your home.  If there is something major or an emergency, we will have a contractor come to perform the service, and of course we will provide you with notice of entry.

Please be careful about what is flushed down toilets.  Our city workers are doing a great job of keeping our water and waste systems going, but anything thrown in the toilet other than toilet paper can cause problems.  Please, no disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, paper towels or other disposable items in the toilet.

We will also consolidate visits whenever possible.  For instance, we like to change the furnace filters this time of year and we are required to annually check smoke and fire detectors.  We will try and schedule these together.

ENTRY
From time to time, we or our maintenance contractors may have to enter your unit.  
 
Contractors will be hard to find and schedule, so I’m asking that you be flexible to allow entry for repairs even if the notice is not accurate.  We can work out a protocol for entry and maintenance, for instance, anyone entering would wear gloves, a mask, sanitize their hands prior to entering, and only having one person enter into the unit at any time.   

Proper distance would be maintained, and we will try to respect your available hours even if we have rights to enter at other times.

RENT
As you know, rent payments are due on the first of the month.  However, I know that for some people, work hours have been cut or they have been laid off completely.   

While the news talks about rent forgiveness and mortgage relief, really neither exists.  Whatever “relief” is available is just a deferral of payment at this point, and for some landlords, mortgage lenders are not providing even a deferral, so all our expenses go on.  Expenses include taxes, maintenance, insurance, mortgage payments (utilities, condo fees if applicable).

The government has also announced benefits at the Provincial and Federal level to help you through this crisis.  There are increased Canada Child Benefits payments, the new CERB which may provide you with $2,000 per month for 4 months, GST credits for some families, and an emergency care benefit if you are unable to work for health reasons caused by COVID-19.  There are also allowances to defer payment such as income taxes, utilities, loan re-payment etc.

The government has told tenants they will not be evicted if they don’t pay April’s rent.  That is true, and the Landlord Tenant Board is currently shut down.  However, at some point rents are going to have to be paid, and the government has given no indication that they will provide rent support to tenants.  My advice to you is to keep paying whatever rent you can and let’s have a conversation about it before you start making deductions.  

If you feel a deferral is necessary because of a change in your employment status, please contact me before making deductions.  If you can provide proof of a change in your income and efforts to obtain government monies, then I’m sure we can come to a temporary agreement for partial payments.  

(I have post-dated cheques from you.  Unless I hear from you, I will cash them as I normally do.  It is far better we have a conversation and work together rather than just have the cheques bounce.)

At the end of all this, if the government doesn’t provide rent support, then rent will still be owing and have to be paid.  At that point, if we work together now, I will be willing to enter into a reasonable payment plan for re-payment, but my expenses go on so there will need to be timely payments.  Be careful not to fall behind, as food and shelter are the two most important things.

If rent is not paid in full, I “may” give you an N4 notice based on the unpaid rent and I “may” file an application to the Landlord Tenant Board based on that rent arrears notice.  Please understand that if I do this, it’s not in order to evict you during this crisis, or after it’s over.  My goal is to get into the line at the Board as they will be VERY backlogged when this is all over and they are back in operation.  Remember, there are no hearings, the Sheriff is not enforcing eviction orders, and I need to protect myself from year-long waits for a hearing if rent does not get paid.  We both hope that doesn’t happen.

SHARED AREAS (if applicable)
There are shared areas within the house including the laundry room and back yard.  We need to insist that you practice physical distancing and cooperate with scheduling of these areas.  We may find it necessary to ask that different tenants use these facilities at difference times or on different days.  If this becomes necessary, we will contact you to get your input.

For the laundry room, please thoroughly clean all areas around your machine with a bleach solution, making an effort to wipe down every area you have touched, including door handles etc.  There are three ways to clean affected areas:

Bleach
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a diluted bleach solution (⅓ cup bleach per 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart of water) for virus disinfection. Wear gloves while using bleach, and never mix it with ammonia or anything, in fact, except water. (The only exception is when doing laundry with detergent.) Once mixed, don't keep the solution for longer than a day because bleach will degrade certain plastic containers.

Always clean the surface with water and detergent first, since many materials can react with bleach and deactivate it.

Bleach can corrode metal over time, so do not get into the habit of cleaning their faucets and stainless steel products with it. Because bleach is harsh for many countertops as well, you should rinse surfaces with water after disinfecting to prevent discoloration or damage to the surface.

Isopropyl Alcohol
Alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus on hard surfaces. First, clean the surface with water and detergent. Apply the alcohol solution (do not dilute it) and let it sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol is generally safe for all surfaces.

Hydrogen Peroxide
According to the CDC, household (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is effective in deactivating rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Rhinovirus is more difficult to destroy than coronaviruses, so hydrogen peroxide should be able to break down coronavirus in less time. Pour it undiluted into a spray bottle and spray it on the surface to be cleaned, but let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute.

Hydrogen peroxide is not corrosive, so it’s okay to use it on metal surfaces. But similar to bleach, it can discolor fabrics if you accidentally get in on your clothes.  You can pour it on the area and you don’t have to wipe it off because it essentially decomposes into oxygen and water.

Please contact me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx or email at @ if you want to discuss any tenancy issues. 

Yours very truly,

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