Just 1 in 5 small businesses expecting to get rent relief

Canada's commercial landlords reluctant to adopt new rent assistance measures, a new survey suggests


A survey of Canadian small businesses found only one in five expect their landlord to offer them rent relief through the government’s new assistance plan.

“The Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CERCA) program is unlikely to succeed without applying more pressure on landlords to sign rent forgiveness agreements with their small business tenants,” Save Small Business, a coalition of about 40,000 Canadian small businesses, wrote in a release announcing the survey.

Small businesses have been clamouring for rent relief as business slowed to a crawl – or evaporated completely – during the pandemic. Though the CERCA benefit was introduced last week to ease some of the burden on small businesses, critics say the measures are overly complex and leave too much wiggle room for landlords to shrug off the opportunity.

Under the program, the federal and provincial government will provide forgivable loans to landlords to cover 50 per cent of April, May and June rent. Loans will be forgiven if the landlord agrees to cut the business tenants’ rent by at least 75 per cent. The small business tenant would cover the remainder (up to 25 per cent).

“Because participation in the program is voluntary for landlords, and they will still be expected to accept some losses under the program, there is mounting worry many will choose to ignore it, even if badly needed by their tenants,” Save Small Business adds.

A whopping 97 per cent of the 2,572 businesses surveyed said that a CECRA rent reduction was either crucial to the business’s survival, or would improve their likelihood of making it through the pandemic. The remaining three per cent said rent relief would not have an impact on their ability to stay open.

The group is calling on provincial governments to immediately ban commercial evictions until September 30.

@nataliamanzocco

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