Business supports: Steps for property owners

Friday, May 01, 2020
Federal and provincial COVID-19 financial aid programs have been released and are operational, although confusing for both property owners and tenants. The Bronte Business Improvement Area (BIA) has compiled a list of five steps to help property owners keep their businesses, and the business of their tenants, viable until the economy can re-open. Property owners and tenants working together will be key to saving all businesses.
  1. Review your budget.
    • Identify your fixed and variable costs to understand exactly where you can cut expenses.
    • Prioritize what you really need to pay now and what can be deferred.
    • The Town of Oakville will accept late property tax payments, for both residential and commercial taxes, with no interest or late fees for up to two months. 
    • There is a five-month relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit select provincial taxes on time.
    • Employers can defer Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) payments for up to six months.
    • Ontario has increased the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption for 2020 from $490,000 to $1 million.
    • GST/HST payments due after March 27 and before June 1 are not due until June 30, 2020. But, if you’re expecting a refund, file and get those funds back.
  1. Do you qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?  Did you make more than $5,000 last year and are not working because of COVID-19. This applies to self-employed people as well as employees. This pays you $2,000/4 weeks for 16 weeks. It’s paid out very quickly; usually 2 – 3 days after applying.
  2. Talk to your financial institution. If you have a relationship with a bank, talk to your representative to see if you qualify for the Canada Emergency Business Account, an interest-free $40,000 loan to cover immediate costs and other deferral programs.
  3. The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses, in partnership with the provinces, has been announced, but is not yet operational. This funding goes to landlords who can chose to pass it along to their tenants. It is expected to cover 75% of tenant rent and related costs. More details are expected mid-May.  
    • Have a proactive conversation with your tenants about how you can work together to keep their businesses viable.
    • If they paid first and last months’ rent, consider applying the tenant’s last month’s rent to their current outstanding rent.
    • Send your tenant a letter outlining in detail how you can work together. Use this sample letter template from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
    • Have shared overhead expenses like utilities been reduced resulting in savings you can pass along to the tenant?
    • If tenants only pay 75% of rent owed for three months with CECRA, this equates to 93% of rent paid to you over the course of the year. Consider if this is better than terminating a lease with no revenue coming in for a minimum of three months, which equals 75% of rent paid over the course of the year.
    • Know most tenants are passionate business people eager to work with their landlords and re-open their businesses as soon as possible.
    • Find more information from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). 
  1. Do you have employees that you’re still paying or would like to hire back? And, have you experienced at least a 15% drop in revenue in March and 30% in April and May due to COVID-19? Then you can apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). This will pay 75% of employees’ wages for up to 12 weeks. You have to re-apply every month as you may not qualify every month.
Information provided by the Bronte Business Improvement Area (BIA).
Note: these suggestions are not considered legal advice; please consult professional advisers.