CPLEA has compiled some frequently asked questions about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic (the “pandemic”) in rental properties. Events are rapidly changing due to the pandemic so this resource may change as new issues develop. This CPLEA resource provides general information only. It does not provide legal or professional advice.
Is there anything being done at the Federal or Provincial level (in Alberta) to protect renters during the pandemic?
There have been no announcements federally about implementing additional protection measures (such as forgiving rent or suspending evictions) for residential tenants. In Alberta, the government introduced temporary protections for tenants (under the Residential Tenancies Act and Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act). However, as of August 14th, all of these protections have ended:
- Landlords can now evict tenants for non-payment of rent or utilities or both so long as they comply with the laws. Landlords could not evict for this reason between March 27 and May 1, 2020.
- Landlords can now increase rent if proper notice is given. Landlords could not increase rent while Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency was in effect. However, landlords cannot retroactively collect rental increases. (I.e. Landlords cannot now collect rental increases that were supposed to take effect while the Public Health Emergency was in effect.)
- Landlords can now apply late fees to late rental payments after June 30th. Landlords could not apply late fees on rental payments between April 1 and June 30, 2020. However, landlords cannot retroactively collect late fees. (I.e. Landlords cannot now collect late fees on late payments between April 1 and June 30, 2020.)
- Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to come up with a payment plan if a tenant is struggling with rent due to COVID-19. Landlords are no longer required to show a payment plan before applying to end the tenancy or recover possession. This protection was in place until August 14, 2020. However, if the landlord and tenant made an agreement, that agreement remains in effect for the agreed-upon period.
For more information on tenant protection measures, see the Government of Alberta’s information on rental evictions.
Tip for tenants: If you have concerns about paying rent because of the pandemic, you may be eligible for financial assistance through the federal government. For more information, refer to the financial assistance resources under “Resources” below.
Can landlords still evict tenants during the pandemic?
Landlords could not evict tenants for non-payment of rent and/or utilities before May 1, 2020. But evictions for other reasons under the Residential Tenancies Act are still possible, for example:
- Significantly damaging the property or allowing property to be significantly damaged
- Physically assaulting or threatening to assault the landlord or other tenants
- Committing illegal acts on the property
Landlords should work with tenants to establish a rent payment plan. The pandemic poses challenges for both landlords and tenants. If you have any doubts or concerns about your rental property mortgage payments, contact your bank or lending institution. Many banks are supporting customers by allowing them to apply to defer mortgage payments for 6 months. If you are facing any financial difficulties because of the pandemic, you may also be eligible for financial assistance through the federal government (see “Resources” below for financial assistance resources).
For more information on tenant protection measures, see the Government of Alberta’s information on rental evictions.
I lost my job because of the pandemic. Can I end my fixed term lease early?
If you want to end your lease early because of job loss, talk to your landlord to see if they will agree. You can offer to help the landlord by finding a new tenant. Make sure any agreement you make is in writing and signed by both you and your landlord.
For more information, see our “If Your Employment Ends: Laws for Tenants in Alberta” publication
Can I defer my utility bill payments during the pandemic?
Alberta’s Utility Payment Deferral Program ended on June 18, 2020. This program was for electricity and natural gas, regardless of the service provider. Check with your municipality if there is flexibility or deferral of payments for water service. Remember, deferral does not mean you don’t have to pay, it just means your payment is put off until later.
With temporary changes to the Consumer Protection Act, deferment also extended to sub-metering agreements. Between March 17 and June 18, 2020, it was an unfair practice for any person (including suppliers, landlords or condominium corporations) to:
- Refuse to defer a sub metering customer’s utility payments when the customer requests it and
- Disconnect that customer from energy supply for non-payment, including any non payment of arrears that accrued before March 17
For more information:
- Government of Alberta, Utility payment deferral
- Ministerial Order No. SA:009/2020 (dated April 9, 2020)
I’m a tenant and my landlord is trying to sell their home during the pandemic. Can I stop them from showing the home?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords have the right to show the premises to potential buyers, as long as they give you proper notice. But there are certain circumstances where the landlord or potential buyer cannot enter the home during the pandemic. For example, if you, the landlord or potential buyer are self-isolating or in quarantine (see the next FAQ — Are there any special rules about landlord entry of premises during the pandemic? for more information).
You might want to speak with your landlord about how to alleviate your concerns during the pandemic. For instance:
- placing restrictions on viewings to only serious parties
- requesting health and recent travel information from prospective tenants before any viewing to give the current tenant an indication of risk
- cleaning doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches, as well as surfaces in areas like bathrooms and kitchens before and after each viewing
Showing tips above adapted from Real Estate Council of Alberta’s (RECA) COVID-19 and Real Estate, Property Managers: Discussions with Tenants
Tip: The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) is in Stage 2 of its phased approach of allowing members to host open houses. AREA has urged realtors to take caution in showing homes and take precautions to reduce risk. For more information, go to AREA’s website.
NEW – Are there any special rules about landlord entry of premises during the pandemic?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord can enter a property with proper notice to the tenant, for example:
- to inspect the state of repair of the premises
- to make repairs
- to control pests to ensure the property meets health standards
- to show the property to people who may want to buy the property, or who may provide a mortgage for the purchase or
- to show the premises to potential tenants during the last month of a fixed term tenancy, or anytime after a periodic tenancy has been terminated
Restrictions on a landlord, potential buyer or potential renter entering residential premises due to COVID-19 ended on August 14, 2020 when Ministerial Order No. SA:009/2020 (dated April 9, 2020) expired. However, health and legal guidelines for isolating, quarantining and physical distancing remain in effect.
I’m a landlord or property manager of a multi-unit building. I suspect that a tenant may have COVID-19 and they are not self-isolating. What can I do?
As of March 25, 2020, it is mandatory for returning international travellers and people with COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate. If a person does not self-isolate, they can be fined by law enforcement agencies. If you suspect that a tenant may have COVID-19 and they are not self-isolating, you can:
- take precautions to distance yourself from the tenant if they are exhibiting symptoms
- remind the tenant that not following public health orders is against the law and puts people at risk
- encourage the tenant to reach out to community services and government resources if they need help with self-isolation
- make a complaint on-line
Tip: For more information on self-isolation, go to the Government of Alberta’s webpage on self-isolation.
Reminder for landlords: As recognized by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, negative treatment of residents who have, or are perceived to have, COVID-19, for reasons unrelated to public health and safety, could be discriminatory and prohibited under the Alberta Human Rights Act. For more information, go to the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s website.
I’m a landlord or property manager of a multi-unit building. Am I obligated to inform building residents that there has been a confirmed COVID-19 case in my building?
In Alberta, except in limited circumstances, the Personal Information Protection Act protects individual privacy by requiring landlords to obtain the tenant’s consent when collecting, using and sharing personal information. Landlords must also have a reasonable purpose for use, collection and disclosure of personal information. One circumstance where consent is not required is if the use or disclosure of the information is necessary to respond to an emergency that threatens the life, health or security of an individual or the public.
You should contact Alberta Health Services (811) for more guidance. Alberta Health Services may take the lead in notifying building residents if there are concerns with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.
It may also be prudent to send a notice to residents once you have confirmation of a COVID-19 case from your health authority, with general information such as there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in the building. But your notice should NOT contain the private, confidential information of tenants who have COVID-19 (for example, no names or unit location). You should also not send notices to residents of rumours of suspected cases.
Tip for landlords and tenants: To learn more about privacy in a pandemic, go to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta’s website. If you have specific concerns about privacy and your particular rental situation during the pandemic, you can contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for more information.
What can landlords and property managers do to ensure the health and safety of tenants during the pandemic?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords must make sure that the rental property meets minimum housing and health standards under the Public Health Act and its regulations. Under the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, owners must ensure that all rooms and other areas used in common are maintained in a clean and sanitary condition.
Especially during a pandemic, landlords should be careful in mitigating potential health risks to tenants. Along with following the general advice of public health authorities in preventing the spread of the pandemic (for example, washing hands regularly, avoid shaking hands, maintaining physical distance, etc.), landlords should take steps through:
- Frequently cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces or high traffic areas (e.g., lobbies, elevators, laundry rooms)
- Placing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in shared spaces or high traffic areas
- Posting signage with information about preventing the spread of the pandemic
- Reminding tenants to keep their own premises clean and advising them to follow the direction of health authorities in preventing the spread of the pandemic
For further information, go to the Government of Alberta’s COVID-19 Guidance for multi-family dwellings, condominiums and apartment buildings.
Tip: to learn more about minimum housing and health standards, go to the following resources:
- FAQ – What are the Minimum Housing and Health Standards?
- Minimum Housing and Health Standards (publication)
- If you are a tenant and have concerns about housing and health standards on the property, you can contact 811 for more information. To make a complaint, contact Environmental Public Health.
- Government of Canada’s coronavirus info line: 1.833.784.4397 (available 7AM to midnight EST, 7 days/week)
- Canada COVID-19 webpage
- Alberta COVID-19 webpage
- Alberta Health Services, novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for the Public
- Government of Alberta, Utility payment deferral (program concluded on June 18th)
- Alberta Rental Eviction webpage
- Edmonton COVID-19 webpage
- Calgary COVID-19 webpage
- Canadian Legal FAQs: COVID-19 (this page provides information and links for Albertans about changes in the law and legal services because of COVID-19)
- COVID-19: Tips for Condominiums
- Alberta Human Rights Commission, COVID-19 and Human Rights
- Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, privacy in a pandemic
- Real Estate Council of Alberta’s (RECA) COVID-19 and Real Estate
- Alberta Real Estate Association COVID-19 Updates
Last updated: August 17, 2020