Sask. gov't temporarily suspends residential evictions, one day after declining to do so

Kirstin Knight is still apprehensive at the thought of receiving an eviction notice even as the Saskatchewan government moves to suspend non-urgent eviction hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She rents a property in Regina's Rosemont neighbourhood with her two young daughters, one of whom requires special attention.

In recent months, Knight and her landlord had gone to the Office of Residential Tenancies over a $300 water bill dispute which ended in her landlord's favour.

"I can promise I can pay [the bill] after, I don't know," Knight said Thursday. "I just don't want them to evict me right now because I really don't have anywhere to go."

The province announced Thursday it would be temporarily suspending residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, just one day after declining to do so.

Don Morgan, Attorney General and Justice Minister, said officers at the office of residential tenancies began accepting additional evidence during eviction hearings in a state of emergency last week as part of a policy change within the ORT.

"We felt it was necessary to provide a clear message to Saskatchewan residents that are currently renting today will not be evicted if they face economic hardship during the pandemic," Morgan said during a teleconference Thursday.

Knight said she would like to stay in her current location but she is looking for a place with a backyard for her daughters. She said the company she rents from sent her a warning letter last Friday about possible eviction.

"It means I have to be more vigilant at this place because there is no fenced yard. She already took off out of this place once," Knight said of her older daughter, who requires more supervision. "So, it's kind of scary right now."

Both of Knight's parents are currently self-isolated in Nevada, so she and her daughters are alone during a particularly difficult time financially, she said.

The Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) won't be accepting eviction applications relating to late or missed rent, or other reasons deemed non-urgent, according to a Thursday news release. 

Urgent eviction hearings will still go on. These would include situations such as a tenant posing a health and safety risk due to violence, or damage of property.

Tenants will have to pay their rent. Morgan said a plan may be worked out where someone could pay off the rent in instalments, if they fall behind.

Regina mayor thanks province

Regina mayor Michael Fougere announced on Tuesday that he asked the province last week if they would suspend evictions, a request echoed by the Opposition NDP.

Fougere thanked Morgan and Minister of Social Services Paul Merriman at the city's daily conference on Thursday.

Fougere said city council felt "very strongly" that people should have stable housing during the pandemic, especially those most in need.

"[The province does] deserve a round of applause for acting quickly," Fougere said. "And listening to suggestions and making things better so quickly."