Many low-income individuals and families living in Steinbach are being evicted from their homes this month now that certain government protections have disappeared.

Back in March, the Manitoba Government made a temporary amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act prohibiting landlords from evicting renters for a variety of reasons. Unless tenants were threatening the safety of others or participating in unlawful activity, they were effectively immune to eviction. Essentially, this meant a renter had the capacity to skip payments without being penalized. The provision was initially put in place because many lost either jobs or finances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That exemption expired on September 30.

A spokesperson from the Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB) offered this statement to further elaborate on the situation: “During the temporary suspension against landlords issuing notices of termination and against non-urgent order of possession hearings, tenants continued to be obligated to pay their rent in full and on time. For tenants that could not pay their rent in full and on time, the RTB advised tenants to speak to their landlord, see if alternative payment arrangements could be made. If the tenant receives a notice of termination, the tenant may dispute it. If the tenant fails to move out following a notice of termination, the landlord may proceed to apply for a hearing for an Order of Possession with the RTB.”

Since the moratorium was first lifted, RTB has not received any formal applications for Order of Possession hearings from the Steinbach area. The organization adds they will continue to be vigilant in monitoring the effect of removing the eviction ban. 

Nevertheless, as soon as October hit and tenants were faced with a few months payment, Steinbach Community Outreach Executive Director Irene Kroeker says many began to worry.

“The phone rang constantly all day, very steadily, and I had a lot of requests for places to stay,” she says.

On October 1st alone, Kroeker says she spoke with several individuals who had either received notices of termination or else were on the verge. While she was able to find temporary shelter for some and offer budgeting advice to others, she says not all problems appeared to have an easy solution. If individuals or families over the past few months have arrived at a point where they need to find cheaper accommodation, Kroeker says that will not necessarily be possible.

“In general, affordable housing in Steinbach is very hard to find and I don’t honestly know how much we can help out with that,” she states. “But we can help them with food and clothing and keeping warm.”

In Kroeker’s experience, the landlord-tenant relationship tends to be a precarious one, and this is exactly why.

“I feel very much for the landlords. When somebody doesn’t pay their rent that means their mortgage can’t get paid and it is sad. We have so few affordable homes in Steinbach and if they have to then sell their house to pay the bills that means even less housing for us. On the other side, if you are a tenant and you want to pay your rent but you are unable to, that is another whole set of concerns.”

Already observing this significant influx of people needing help with their living arrangements, Kroeker says she is rolling up her sleeves and preparing for a busy month.