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Renter to Landlord: How and why to ask for a rent moratorium or reduction

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Life just got complicated. Not only are we all being asked to practice social distancing, but many Canadians have already lost their jobs or temporarily lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

On top of that, renters and landlords are starting to panic. 

The big six banks have publicly stated that rental properties are included in the mortgage deferral relief offer but many landlords are still being denied this option. Even as landlords try (and often fail) to obtain mortgage relief on their rental property mortgage, renters are raising the alarm on their inability to pay rent. Some renters are going a step further and declaring a rent strike — a refusal to pay rent in the face of no work and little savings to see them through for the foreseeable future. 

Dangers of a rent strike

The danger with a rent strike is that it puts the renter in conflict with the landlord — and gives the landlord a legitimate reason to evict the tenant. While a tenant may not face eviction during the COVID-19 crisis, the possibility of getting evicted once the current crisis passes is very real.  

Another problem with refusing to pay rent is that the current landlord could end up losing the property (due to an inability to pay the mortgage); the next landlord may then end up with legitimate reasons for evicting a tenant, such as a family member moving into the unit or reclaiming the space as part of the family home.

Danger of rent deferral

But deferring rent isn’t a great option, either. The danger with deferral is that it doesn’t negate the owed rent or mortgage payment. Rather, it delays the payment — taking the amount owed and tacking it on the total owed at some future date. 

Faced with a dilemma, many renters are looking for other options that would ease the burden on rent owed in the next few months. 

Since everyone is impacted by COVID-19, the idea is to find a solution that works for both the renter and the landlord. 

Ask for help, instead

One option is to ask for a rent moratorium — a set period of time when rent is cancelled and not owed. This option can only work if the landlord is able (and willing) to pay the mortgage on the rental property without the help of rent, during the agreed-upon rent moratorium. If this isn’t an option, another possible solution is a rent decrease for a set period of time. 

But it starts with a request. 

To help here’s a template from a renter to a landlord, asking for a rent moratorium/decrease. Keep in mind, this request is a starting point; consider it the opening statement in a dialogue between you and the landlord. The aim is to find a solution that allows both parties to come out of the COVID-19 crisis without losing a home. 

TEMPLATE LETTER: Renter to Landlord Asking for a Rent Moratorium or Decrease

(Replace the red text to personalize this letter template)

Dear [Landlord’s name],

We hope you’re keeping well in these really strange and fast-changing circumstances! 

We’re watching developments about COVID-19 very closely and are, as you might imagine, really concerned. 

As you may, or may not, remember [I/we] work in [the service industry/personal healthcare industry/etc.] and, for the most part, live paycheque to paycheque. 

For these reasons, [I/we] kindly request a [suspension of rent payments/a decrease in the monthly rent owed] until the situation and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic improves. 

Many renters across the country are in a similar situation. The federal and provincial governments are asking landlords to show compassion. [I am/We are] also asking. [I/we] rarely have more than one month’s rent available at any one moment. Now, as a result of COVID-19, [I/we] will be earning much less over the coming months. [Add in any personal details, if necessary.]

[I/We] hope, for everyone’s sake, that life returns to stable, more normal conditions as soon as possible. Until then, it seems all we can do is be pragmatic, avoid panic, and support each other as best we can. 

[I/We]e hope you can consider this request.

Do let [me/us] know if speaking on the phone would be helpful.

Looking forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely, 

[Name(s)]


Additional reading to help homeowners and renters during the COVID-19 outbreak:

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.