Landlords looking for co-operation, not confrontation
We are now two months into facing the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
More than 50,000 Nova Scotians have lost their jobs.
During a time of economic crisis, the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia (IPOANS) represents an important part of the province’s economic foundation.
According to an economic impact study prepared by KPMG in 2016, our industry delivers the following benefits to the province:
- Nova Scotia’s rental property industry is worth more than $1.3 billion to Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product.
- More than 10,000 Nova Scotians depend on the rental property industry for jobs· Our industry provides good, middle-class jobs, with an average annual wage of more than $53,000.
- Employees in the Nova Scotia rental property sector pay $173 million in federal, provincial and payroll taxes (shared with employers.
- Rental housing generates more than $300 million in tax revenue for the three orders of government in Nova Scotia
Rental property owners – and our employees and other partners – are able to do this by tenants paying rent. The overwhelming majority of our income – 97 per cent or $1.2 billion – comes from tenants paying rent.
The vast majority of Nova Scotians, by and large, have continued to pay their rent. We are grateful for tenants continuing to respect their legally contracted lease obligations. We are also grateful for messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Stephen McNeil to encourage people to continue to pay their rent.
In turn, our industry is trying to do our part to be responsible players in an economic crisis.
We encouraged our members to defer any planned rental increases. We urged our members to exercise discretion around evictions for non-COVID related reasons. When MLAs brought forward concerns on behalf of their constituents, we contacted individual landlords to help broker solutions for tenants.
Because our industry provides a service that is essential – housing – not only are we continuing to spend money on ongoing operations, but many rental property owners are spending more to ensure our properties are safe and meet public health directives. Our industry cannot close or reduce operations, unlike many other sectors.
Meanwhile, there are troubling signs on the immediate horizon.
For May, in surveying our members, the total amount of deferred or unpaid rent has almost doubled. This is especially worrisome, as federal and provincial financial supports for individuals are now in place.
As industry revenues go down and costs go up, many rental property owners are feeling forgotten by the governments we support through taxes.
The Nova Scotia government has completely shut down the residential tenancies system until late June. Neither the landlord nor the tenant has an avenue to ensure the rule of law is followed for issues outside of COVID-19. The government has refused to provide flexibility to landlords to help them defer notice of rental increases for later this year.
This has needlessly caused stress and anxiety for both landlords and tenants.
IPOANS has tried to engage government on solutions to help our industry during these tough times. We have pointed to programs and solutions in New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia. Unfortunately, our efforts to get help for our members have been met with at best nice words, but no action.
Even worse, some elected officials in Nova Scotia have decided to use our industry as a political punching bag.
Although the work of rental property owners to do the right thing in an economic crisis have been met by either indifference or politically motivated attacks, IPOANS remains committed to finding fair solutions that work for our members, our tenants and the province as a whole.
Working together — industry, tenants and government — is the best way to find fair solutions.
The future of the 10,000 people who depend on this sector for work and the taxes we generate for government depend on co-operation, not confrontation.
Kevin Russell is executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia.