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Common Questions Answered About Rent and Utility Bills

Utility Bills

 

With almost two million jobs lost in April alone due to the COVID-19 crisis, we understand the stress that you may be feeling right now. The uncertainty of this time has left many of us with questions about how best to protect and manage our finances right now.

 

While the provincial and federal governments are working to provide financial relief through benefits such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), there are additional measures that can help with housing and utility bills. As part of our efforts to support you during the pandemic, we’ve gathered key information that can help your current financial situation.

 

Mortgage and Rent Supports

 

If you are a homeowner, many financial institutions are allowing their customers to defer mortgage payments for up to six months. If you are worried about falling behind in your payments, we recommend you contact your financial institution to review your options with them.

 

Unfortunately, renters do not have the same ability to defer their payments. As a result, our governments are working to provide financial assistance in other ways. The CERB provides temporary financial support for people who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Recipients of the benefit will receive $500/week for up to 16 weeks. If you receive the CERB, we encourage you to use the benefit for your rent payments.

 

Another temporary solution is to take advantage of the Canada Revenue Agency’s extended tax deadline. If you owe money to the CRA, you now have until September 1, 2020, to make the payment without penalties or interest. This may help free up funds that can be used for rent. We do caution that this should not be done unless necessary. As of the date of this post, it's assumed that the CRA will resume charging penalties and interest after the extended deadline.

 

If you need financial relief for your rent payments, one of the best options we can suggest is to have an honest discussion with your landlord about your current situation. In this unprecedented time, many landlords are working with their tenants to reach a resolution that supports both parties. In some cases, landlords have deferred rent payments or have reduced the cost so their tenants can get a handle on their finances.

 

In a measure to protect tenants, the Ontario government has issued an order to prevent any new eviction orders from being issued if related to the COVID-19 crisis. Orders that were issued before March 17, 2020, are being suspended at this time. Also, it is important to note that the Residential Tenancies Act prevents landlords from charging penalties for late rent payments.

 

Utility Assistance

 

As part of the Emergency Order from the Government of Ontario, residential and small-business customers are also provided relief with their hydro bills. Customers now pay the off-peak price for electricity, as outlined in the Ontario Energy Board’s Regulated Price Plan (RPP). What does this mean?

 

Under the regular usage rates, known as time-of-use pricing (TOU), customers paid different rates depending on what time they were using electricity. Whereas evenings and weekends were considered “off-peak” with the lowest pricing, daytime hours during the weekdays were "on-peak" with the highest. With many people now at home during the day, many households are using more electricity during "on-peak" hours.

 

Since March 24, 2020, the government ordered that the electricity pricing stay frozen at the lowest amount during all hours. Customers now pay the off-peak rate of 10.1 ¢/kWh any time of the day. The pricing automatically applies meaning customers will see the rates adjusted on their bills without having to apply for this financial relief.

 

While these days continue to be full of uncertainty, know that our Licensed Insolvency Trustee at Crawford, Smith & Swallow Inc. is here to help you.

 

We realize that, even with all the extra government support, it is still impossible for some families and individuals to make ends meet during this unprecedented time.  We can work with you to discuss the possibility of a bankruptcy or consumer proposals to help you during this challenging time. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

 

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