B.C. says there will be consequences for people who can afford rent but skip it

As thousands of British Columbians struggle to pay their April rent, the B.C. government is warning there will be punishment for those cheating the system.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert says the province is working to ensure people who need money to pay rent receive support but those who take advantage and skip rent payments will face consequences.

“Pay your rent if you can. If you can’t, be clear to your landlord about why and then apply for the for the supplement, for the federal support, then pay your rent when you can,” Chandra-Herbert said.

“If they are taking advantage of not paying rent, skipping rent just because they think they can there are consequences at the end. If you’re skipping out on rent just because you want to and you can pay you will be evicted. It will just be afterwards.”

The B.C. government has banned any evictions in the province except in extraordinary circumstances.

The province is offering renters up to $500 a month for the next three months to ensure British Columbians affected by the novel coronavirus crisis can keep paying for their home.

The support will be distributed through BC Housing and is part of the province’s $5-billion stimulus package, which includes $2.8 billion in support for individuals.

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But the government was not able to get the program up and running before rent cheques are due on Wednesday.

Chandra-Herbert says people should be able to apply for the rent supplement online “shortly” and is stressing cooperation if tenants are short on rent this month.

Renter Sarah Baumgart says she she will miss her rent payment on Wednesday and it will be the first time in her life she has missed a rent cheque.

“I think a lot of people are not going to have rent. I certainly don’t have rent for tomorrow. I’m out of work. I’m not sure where our government officials think this money is going to come from,” Baumgart said.

“I’m not paying my rent because I’m out of work and I had to close my business.”

Baumgart runs a small business in East Vancouver. She is also on disability and is hopeful there will be additional funding from both the federal and provincial governments to provide support.

“I’m very stressed. I mean this isn’t sustainable. This will carry on for months. I don’t know what they think we will do for the months to come,” Baumgart said.

“I feel helpless. I think a lot of us feel helpless. It’s awful having your income taken from you.”

There is a growing movement from advocacy groups to scrap rent and mortgage payments altogether.

The B.C. Government Employees Union, the Vancouver Tenants Union and Leadnow have all requested the federal government waive both mortgage and rent payments during the crisis.

Leadnow has helped lead the charge on a petition signed by over 840,000 Canadians, including renters and landlords, calling on the cancellation of rent payments across the country in an effort to help absorb economic shocks and stop the spread of the virus.

“Cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 virus pandemic would relieve financial pressure, allow citizens to stay home from work without the added concern of losing their housing and limit the spread of the virus,” petition creator and Toronto renter Joe Rutherford said.

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