A for lease sign hangs in the window as a cyclist walks past a commercial store, Monday August 31, 2020 in Ottawa. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A for lease sign hangs in the window as a cyclist walks past a commercial store, Monday August 31, 2020 in Ottawa. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

As feds audit landlords over rent aid, businesses fall through cracks of new program

The CMHC said in a statement the reviews are being done as needed to make sure tenants benefited

Documents given to parliamentarians show federal officials audited at least 127 landlords who received aid through a program designed to ease rent costs for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That was the figure as of Dec. 10, at which time the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said just over one-quarter of those cases had been “resolved.”

The federal housing agency didn’t say how many more audits have been conducted since.

The CMHC said in a statement the reviews are being done as needed to make sure tenants benefited from the Liberals’ first try at the commercial rent-relief program and that landlords complied with the terms of the program.

The original program provided landlords with forgivable loans that covered half of rent for eligible small businesses, but required property owners to waive a further one-quarter of what they were otherwise owed.

In the end, just over $2 billion in federal aid flowed through the program as many landlords didn’t apply.

Federal figures tabled in the House of Commons show 51,404 distinct property-owners applied to the program, with some submitting requests for multiple properties.

The Liberals revamped the program because of the low take-up, allowing tenants to apply directly and creating a sliding scale of relief, based on revenue declines, of up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest.

The program now includes a lockdown top-up of an added 25 per cent for businesses ordered to close due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Since late September, there have been nearly 112,000 unique applicants for the program, amounting to $986.8 million in aid. Within that, 37,320 applicants received the lockdown top-up, which adds $127 million in spending for a grand total of over $1.1 billion.

A group representing thousands of small businesses across the country said the new version still isn’t living up to expectations because it suffers from a lack of visibility and eligibility issues.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said only one-quarter of its members have used the revamped rent subsidy program, compared to two-thirds that have used a popular loan program that can be used for costs like rent.

President Dan Kelly said some small and medium-sized businesses that would be eligible for rent relief are likely avoiding it because of struggles with the first iteration of the program, or other issues they faced in applying for pandemic aid.

“They moved on,” he said.

“A lot of business owners who are eligible for the program have just not yet applied, because they’re unaware that there is substantive support available in a new program. So the visibility of it is, I think, one of the struggles.”

He also said the association has raised concerns to the government that eligibility requirements may be excluding some businesses that own their own properties.

Often, a company like a restaurant or drycleaner will have a holding company that owns a property and to which it pays rent. Under the rent-relief program, that setup makes a business ineligible because the landlord isn’t at arm’s-length from the business owner.

Federal rules say that a holding company may be able to claim some expenses, such as property taxes and insurance.

The previous program had a fix for this potential issue that Kelly said could make either party eligible for relief.

A fix like that would likely need legislative approval.

A bill to enact aid measures from November’s economic statement remains at second reading in the House of Commons. Bill C-14 would allow the government to put money into regional relief packages and create a top-up to child benefit payments.

Earlier Monday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with her U.K. counterpart in advance of a G7 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers.

“We remain committed to supporting people and small businesses so we can make it through this pandemic,” Freeland said in a tweet.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton fire crews put out hot spots at a controlled burn that got a little close for comfort at Riva Ridge Estates March 8, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Controlled burn comes close to Penticton homes

Residents of Riva Ridge Estates got out their hoses before fire crews arrived

The goal of the group is to help women owned businesses recover from the pandemic and to assist women to become angel investors and women owned or co-owned businesses to better access capital.
Okanagan women’s investor fund launched to aid women-owned businesses

Twenty-five women have formed a new Okanagan angel investment fund

It's tick season in South Okanagan.
Tick season has started in South Okanagan

A Penticton adventure company collected 200 ticks last year to be studied for Lyme Disease

Granfondo is going ahead in Penticton this September. (Western file photo)
BREAKING: Granfondo is a go in Penticton

Axel Merckx pushed the event to September in hopes of a ‘full Fondo experience’

A former client credits her 33 years of sobriety and happiness to all the care she received over the years at Pathways.
LETTER: Client credits 33 years of sobriety to Pathways staff

“Nothing could replace Pathways either in efficiency or in value for cost.”

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

(File photo)
RCMP seek witnesses after 2 different reports of man chasing children in Kelowna

Both incidents occured around Dougall Road in Rutland

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Noah Vaten(left) having a cigarette out front of the Kelowna Law Courts on a brief break during his manslaughter trial on March 8, 2021. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Accused Kelowna killer ‘blacked out’ on cocaine, kicked cop shop window looking for help

Video of Noah Vaten’s interrogation shown during manslaughter trial details night of Canada Day killing in the accused’s own words

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Most Read