Something that is getting talked about a lot these last couple of months is rentals. Maybe this is a good time to go into what they involve.

From the beginning of this pandemic, there has been a lot of noise about rentals—both commercial and residential, but I will keep to the residential side of things here, because that is where my own knowledge and personal experience lie.

The discussion around rentals started with a lot of Torontonians saying they didn't think they were going to pay their rents during the pandemic. They started a “keep-your-rent” movement. On the one hand I can understand the thinking here. Many renters found themselves hard hit in terms of job loss and lack of funds for basic needs. The uncertainty of what lay ahead was (and still is) very stressful. Landlords in this movement got painted as big corporations trying to oppress the common person, but the fact is that for most of Toronto that is not the case. About 50 percent of Toronto landlords are individuals who, through hard work, have bought themselves an income property, and without the rents from the units in those properties, they stand to lose their investments, which likely form the basis of their retirement plans.

I have an income property myself, and as I watched all this going on, I began to feel more than a little nervous. I have been lucky to have fabulous tenants, and I think they will agree that they pay reasonable rents. However, none of these things particularly matters in the face of COVID. The upper unit of my rental property has three bedrooms, tenanted by three young men—until COVID! By May 1st I was down to one tenant. We spoke a few times about how to move forward. He worked really hard to find new roommates—no easy feat in the current conditions. He did not want to leave, and I did not want him to leave, nor did I want an empty apartment when I could see more and more rentals coming on the market. We worked together. He got a rent discount for one month, and happily for all, he needed it for only one month. He was able to find new roommates, and they are now paying full rent.

I realize that compared to many, the loss of a couple of tenants is hardly a tale of woe, but what I am trying to say is that if we can just appreciate that there are some pretty stressed-out individuals on both sides of the equation, perhaps we can come up with solutions that will work for everyone.

Now I see reports coming out in the media weekly about the declining rent prices and the glut of inventory on the market. Why? A few factors. Like my two young men who left, many young people are moving home because they have lost their jobs, or to save money in the event of job loss, or even just to be close to family in these uncertain times. Combine that with the number of Air BnB rentals that have come to market as long-term rentals, either because the buildings they are in no longer allow short stay, or because their units were empty due to a lack of tourism. Lastly add to this the completion of purpose-built rentals, which have seen a resurgence in the Toronto market in recent years. Suddenly, a lot of rentals (supply) for a diminishing number of renters (demand), which as we all know is what drives down the price.

The next issue on the horizon for the rental market, as far as I can tell, is the lifting of the ban on evictions. Not only will the Landlord Tenant Board be overrun with cases, but the backlog will be astounding. How long will it take to sort it all out? How many tenants will continue through all this not paying rent? How many landlords might lose their homes? How will tenants who have been evicted find a new home when their credit and ability to provide a good reference is gone? This is just one area where we have yet to see the ripples of the pandemic really take effect. If you or anyone you know is on either side of this coin, be upfront about your situation and use, to the best of your ability, your skills of negotiation.

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