On April 24, 2020, the Federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, announced assistance to commercial landlords and tenants.
In Ontario, the assistance, which is called Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA), will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The OCECRA is expected to be operational by mid-May but will apply retroactively for the months of April and May, as well as for June 2020.
Full details of the OCECRA will be shared in the near future, as will rent assistance for tenants whose rents are in excess of $50,000 per month.
How does the program work?
The program will share rent between small business tenants, eligible landlords, and the Federal and provincial governments, as follows:
- mortgaged property owners would be required to sign a rent forgiveness agreement with its tenants to reduce the rental costs of small business tenants from April 1 to June 30, 2020, by at least 75 percent, and agree to a three-month moratorium on evictions;
- small business tenants, as defined below, would be asked to pay the remaining 25 percent of their rent;
- the Ontario government will cover 12.5% percent of the rent; and
- the Federal government will cover the remaining 37.5% of the rent.
The Ontario and Federal government assistance to property owners will be provided through forgivable loans administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and disbursed directly to the property owner’s mortgage holder.
The program will be available until September 30, 2020.
The following landlords are eligible for the program:
- the registered owner and landlord of the following properties :
- commercial properties rented to small business tenants.
- commercial properties with a residential component, and residential mixed-use properties with a 30 percent commercial component, would be equally eligible for support with respect to their commercial tenants only.
- experiencing potential rent shortfalls because of the impact on your tenants of COVID-19
- have a mortgage secured by a commercial property
- signed a rent forgiveness agreement with its tenants
If a property owner does not have a mortgage secured by commercial rental property, the property owner should contact CMHC to discuss program options, which may include applying funds against other forms of debt facilities or fixed cost payment obligations, such as utilities.
Small business tenants
The following small business tenants are eligible for the program:
- pay monthly rent not exceeding $50,000 in gross rent payments; and
- the business is a non-essential small business that has temporarily closed, or is experiencing a drop of at least 70 percent from pre-COVID-19 revenues (determined by comparing revenues in April, May or June to the same month in 2019 or alternatively compared to average revenues for January and February 2020).
The assistance applies to commercial businesses as well as not-for-profit and charitable organizations.
The following entities are not eligible for the program:
- entities owned by individuals holding political office;
- entities that promote violence, incite hatred or discriminate on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability; and
- an entity in its lender’s special accounts or restructuring group prior to March 1, 2020.