COVID-19 has made life difficult for both landlords and tenants. Tenants have struggled to pay rent, landlords have been left out of pocket with bills to pay, and anyone with a vacant unit to rent will have noticed how slow the market has become. People are unwilling to make a change in these uncertain times.
Now that the state of emergency for COVID-19 has ended, landlords can issue a repayment plan to tenants under the Repayment Plan legislation introduced by the Provincial Government. This gives tenants until July 10, 2021 to repay any rent that was not paid during the emergency period (March 18 to August 17, 2020).
There is some good information on the process, including the specific requirements for the repayment plan, a policy guideline and a standard form that can be used. However, if landlords want to keep good relations with their tenants and maximise the chance of the repayment plan being successful, it is not enough to just mail the form to the tenant.
Good communication has and will always be the cornerstone of a successful tenancy. Landlords should communicate clearly with the tenants regarding the repayment process. At this point I find it best to employ a bit of Rudyard Kipling as inspiration, and ensure the What, Why, When, How, Where and Who are explained in a cover letter to accompany the form.
- What – explain clearly what is owed, this is easily done by referring to the repayment form and including a copy of the tenant ledger
- Why – refer to the tenancy agreement, tenants have agreed to pay rent in exchange for their accommodation and the legislation regarding repayment.
- When – Outline the time period the tenants have to make the repayments and when the payments are due (same day as rent is due).
- How – Explain how the tenants should make the repayment. Should they lump it together with their rent? Will you accept a separate cheque or a different method of payment?
- Where – Confirm where the payment should be made. Is it the same account as the rent? If tenants need to pay with cash, where should they go?
- Who – Where there are co-tenants, it is important to stress there is only one tenancy and that all co-tenants are “jointly and severally” responsible for rent payment. This avoids complicated discussions about who paid what and who is responsible for the repayment, as the answer is everyone is responsible. Also, will you accept payment from someone else (e.g. a family member) on behalf of the tenant?
Finally, include contact information. It may be that tenants who are now back on their feet would prefer to pay the amount owed sooner than stated in the repayment plan or may have additional questions. Encourage the tenants to communicate with you but keep a record of all communications. Should things not work out, and arbitration looms, being able to prove you followed the correct processes and gave tenants every opportunity to pay will all but guarantee success.
For the policy documents and standard form: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/covid-19
For additional commentary and advice on the repayment plan and residential tenancy matters: https://landlordbc.ca/who-we-are/
For Rudyard Kipling’s poem “I keep six honest serving men”: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_serving.htm