Minister Caroline Wawzonek confirmed today that the Government of Northwest Territories has enacted the Residential Tenancies COVID-19 Regulations , a new temporary regulation that offers tenants a mechanism to defer their rent if they have lost their job or have had a significant decline in their income during the COVID-19 health pandemic.
In the Northwest Territories, the relationship between tenants and landlords is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act which lays out the responsibilities and rights of both tenants and landlords, and establishes a process for resolving disputes. The Act requires that tenants pay rent as stipulated in their tenancy agreement, and allows for landlords to apply to terminate the tenancy and seek an eviction order should rent not be paid.
This new temporary regulation will allow tenants who are experiencing financial hardship to advise their landlord in writing of the reasons they are unable to pay their rent, and how they plan to pay it in the future. The Landlord would be able to request evidence to prove the tenant is no longer employed or is experiencing reduced income. All rent would still be payable by the tenant when their circumstances change, or when the current pandemic circumstances ease and the temporary regulation is revoked. In addition to non-payment of rent, the temporary regulation also suspends a landlord's ability to evict a tenant for a number of other reasons outlined in the Act.
What happens if I can’t pay my rent due to COVID-19?
There is a new regulation that allows you to defer your rent to be paid later if you follow the appropriate steps if you have lost your job, or have experienced a significant reduction in your income due to COVID-19. You are required to explain - in writing - your situation to your landlord.
What do I have to show my landlord?
You must give your landlord a written notice or explanation why you are unable to pay your rent and how you are planning to be able to do so. If any of the information in your written notice changes, you must tell your landlord immediately.
Does this mean I don't have to pay my rent at all?
No. You must pay your rent as soon as you are able to. It is important that tenants make plans for paying the amount you owe after the emergency is over. There is uncertainty around how long the impacts of COVID-19 will require this protection to be in place, but the situation is being closely monitored, and any further changes and the eventual repeal of these protections will be publicly communicated.
After I have provided the written information, can my landlord evict me for not paying?
Once they have received your written notice, your landlord cannot evict you due to your inability to pay rent.
What if my landlord doesn’t believe the information provided to them in a written notice?
Your landlord can request evidence that would show the information provided by the tenant is accurate. If the landlord is still not satisfied they may make an application to the rental officer to decide if the information provided is sufficient.
What about other reasons to evict me? Do they still apply?
Normally, there are a number of circumstances where a landlord can normally apply to terminate a tenancy. After you have provided your written notice, your landlord will not be able to terminate your tenancy for any of these reasons either. These include:
- A rental property is the landlord’s only residence in the Northwest Territories
- A tenancy agreement is for subsidized public housing
- A landlord requires possession of the rental premises for use as their own residence, or their immediate family
- A landlord has entered into an agreement of sale
- A landlord requires the property for demolition of the residence, extensive renovations, or if they are repurposing the property and will no longer be renting it
- A student or staff member was provided housing by an educational institution but no longer meets the requirements to qualify for that housing
- A landlord and a tenant share a bathroom or kitchen facility and have had personal differences that make continuing the tenancy unfair to either of them. If your landlord has already given notice and started the process to terminate a tenancy based on one of these reasons, and a tenant submits written notice that they are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19, the process will be paused until this regulation is repealed (discontinued).
Are there any reasons that still apply where I could be evicted?
Yes. A landlord will still be able to apply to the Rental Officer to terminate a tenancy with 10 days notice for the following reasons:
- A tenant has repeatedly and unreasonably disturbed the landlord’s or other tenants use of the rental property
- A tenant has caused damage to the rental property and not followed an order to address it
- A tenant has not followed an order to address an obligation in a tenancy agreement
- The tenancy agreement has been frustrated (cannot be carried out)
- The safety of the landlord or other tenants has been seriously impaired by the tenant
Does this mean that I can't end my tenancy and leave if I want to? Or if I have to?
There is nothing in the new Regulations to stop you and your landlord from agreeing to end your tenancy. You can also still terminate your tenancy as below due to family violence.
Where can I call to find out more information?
The Rental Office is able to provide advice to both tenants and landlords on the Rental Tenancies Act and help to resolve disputes.