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Halifax Tenants' COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

My daughter is attending university in September and signed a lease for an apartment starting May 1st, but because of COVID-19 she isn't currently living there. Can she get out of the lease?

The State of Emergency has not provided any leeway in breaking a lease. Unless some sort of an agreement is arranged with the landlord, your daughter will be responsible for paying rent come May.

Can a landlord kick you out because you don’t have money to pay rent because of no employment due to COVID-19? 

Not immediately.  In March, the NS government announced that no tenant whose income has been impacted by COVID-19 can be evicted by their landlord for the next three months.  If a tenant falls behind on their rent because of COVID-19 and the landlord wishes to evict, an eviction hearing will not be scheduled until at least June 22, 2020.  At the hearing, the tenant will be asked to provide proof that their income has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would be worthwhile to speak with other tenants who rent with your landlord.  If they are also in a similar situation, where they either have decided to keep their rent for May and June or they simply can't afford to pay, coming up with a plan together on how to deal with the landlord's attempt to evict in June or July may be the best way to protect yourself.  If you have no way to contact the other tenants, please fill out our Find Your Neighbours contact form, and the HTU will connect you with your fellow tenants if they have also filled out the form.

My landlord is selling my unit. Are realtors and inspectors allowed to enter my unit during the state of emergency?

The Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission has strongly encouraged realtors to avoid in-person showings and meetings. If in-person meetings are impossible to avoid, they recommended that realtors follow good hygiene and social distancing practices. This includes: travelling between properties with one person per car, frequent hand washing, remaining 2m apart, cough etiquette, and frequent environmental cleaning (door handles, light switches, counters, etc.).

However, if any person involved in the potential sale is under a 14-day isolation order due to travel or suspected contact, that individual cannot be involved in any in-person aspect of the sale until the isolation period is over.  If you are a tenant under a 14-day isolation order, no realtor, inspector, or landlord may legally enter the unit where you are isolating.

​​I've given my notice to quit to my landlord and they're now doing showings of my (still occupied by me) unit during the state of emergency. Is this allowed? Can I refuse them entry?

Landlords may show an occupied unit without notice to the tenant if the tenant has given notice to quit and there are less than three months before the end of the lease. The only restriction is that the showings must happen at a "reasonable hour". There have been no changes to this in the light of the pandemic. However, again, if you are under a 14-day isolation order, your landlord may not enter your unit.

Can my landlord ban all visitors (including couriers and food delivery) from the building?

The state of emergency has not given landlords this ability. While the 5 person maximum is enforceable by police, a landlord cannot ban visitors to a unit or building. This would be a change to the landlord rules portion of the lease, which landlords can only do on the anniversary date of the lease and only with 4 months notice.

Can my landlord increase my rent during the state of emergency?

The Nova Scotia Emergency Management Act states that "no person in the Province may charge higher prices for food, clothing, fuel, equipment, medical or other essential supplies or for the use of property, services, resources or equipment than the fair market value of the same thing immediately before the emergency". However, when asked a similar question by reporters, Premier McNeil told tenants to work it out with their landlords. The Investment Properties Owners Association of NS (IPOANS) has recommended to their members that they hold off on rent increases, but that is merely a recommendation by a body with no authority.

If your landlord has raised your rent, begin speaking with other tenants who rent from your landlord. Find out if they have also experienced an increase. If you do not have other tenants’ contact information, you can fill out our Find Your Neighbours Contact Form and the HTU will connect you with other tenants who rent from your landlord who have also filled out the form.

Can I withhold rent until the pandemic is over?

As in the non-pandemic norm, there is nothing explicitly preventing a tenant from withholding rent. However, the SoE provides no additional protections for that tenant if the landlord moves to evict (except in the case of COVID-19 affecting income). By choosing to not pay rent, a tenant enters a situation where the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.

If you are thinking of or need to withhold your rent, make sure you are in contact with your landlord's other renters.  If you withhold rent on your own, you risk eviction.  If you  withhold rent as a group effort, it will be harder - or in the best case not possible - for your landlord to evict you all in June.  At that point you can negotiate either a favourable repayment plan, or a non-repayment agreement.  If you do not have the contact information of other tenants, you can fill our our Find Your Neighbours contact form and the HTU will connect you with other tenants in your building or who rent from your landlord who have also filled out the form.

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