“Property Management Services” Deemed “Essential”

As most of you know by now, basic multi-res (and commercial) building operations/workplaces have been deemed “Essential Services” by the Province of Ontario; consequently, your operations staff are not subject to the Province of Ontario’s general COVID-19 workplace lock down order. The specific language of the Essential Service designation is as follows:

13. Businesses that provide support and maintenance services, including urgent repair, to maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial industrial and residential properties and buildings, including, property management services, plumbers, electricians, custodial/janitorial workers, cleaning services, security services, fire safety and sprinkler systems, building systems maintenance and repair technicians and engineers, mechanics, (e.g. HVAC, escalator and elevator technicians), and other service providers who provide similar services;

It is clear from the broad language of the designation that your multi-res operations staff are expected to attend the workplace to carry out the requirements of their job descriptions. In this regard, staff who are required to show vacant rental units; engage in leasing marketing and processing; and negotiate or otherwise deal with tenants for rent arrears/payments, conduct issues, etc. may all continue to perform those tasks.

Regardless of the foregoing, precautions and care should continue to be taken where staff are required to interact personally with tenants, particularly in the performance of in-suite maintenance and repair services (click here for link to questions to ask). Maintenance requests will have to be prioritized to balance risk to staff with the urgency of the request for service. What is clear is that landlords must continue to exercise their statutory obligation to “maintain and repair” and a failure to do so will be considered a breach of the RTA. The only risk issue, should a landlord be called to account at the Landlord and Tenant Board, is whether the breach is “substantial”. In responding to low urgency repairs in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown, “context” is a key factor in deciding whether the breach is “substantial”.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joe Hoffer at hoffer@cohenhighley.com or 519-672-9330.

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