CECRA will provide rent relief of over $900 million, in the form of forgivable loans to assist small businesses and commercial landlords.

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) Program

Introduction

CECRA will provide rent relief of over $900 million, in the form of forgivable loans to assist small businesses and commercial landlords. The assistance applies to rent obligations of tenants whose revenue has dropped at least 70% as a result of COVID-19. 

The CECRA will be administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The deadline to apply for the CECRA program is August 31, 2020. The program will become operational in May 2020.

The limited program details released so far require further clarification since the Ontario and CMHC announcements differ. 

CECRA and OCECRA

Previously, the Ontario Government released rules on the Ontario version of this program called OCECRA (Ontario-Canada Emergency Rent Assistance), indicating that it was only to reimburse certain fixed costs with no profit element. However, the CMHC has now provided further details that indicate that the program will be applied to gross rent, which would include the landlord’s profit.  

Accordingly a landlord’s rent will be shared as follows: Federal and Ontario governments-50% (37.5%/12.5% respectively), landlord and tenant in aggregate-50%. The tenant will pay no more than 25% of the rent. 

If the recent CMHC announcements are accurate, these revised program terms will be more appealing to landlords, as it will provide for a 75% gross rent recovery for the months of April, May and June 2020 (eligible period).

The forgivable loan can be applied for retroactively, so long as the landlord credits the tenant for rents paid in excess of 25% of the gross rent, for the eligible period.

The following is based upon a combination of communications from the Ontario government and CMHC on the assumption that gross rent will be used.

Conditions for the Program

The program will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners who may experience potential rent shortfalls due to their small business tenants being impacted by COVID-19. To be eligible for the forgivable loan, the following conditions have to be met:

  1. Property owners will have to reduce the rent of small business tenants for three months (April to June 2020) by at least 75%. The tenant’s maximum rent will be 25% of the gross rent; and
  2. Sign a rent forgiveness agreement between the impacted tenant and landlord with a moratorium on eviction for the eligible period.

Eligible commercial properties include commercial properties with a residential component and residential mixed-use properties with a commercial component.

The eligible property owner must have reported rental income on their 2018 and/or 2019 tax return. The registered owner can apply for the program with the rental property secured by a mortgage. 

Otherwise, the owner will be provided with an alternative mechanism, that will be disclosed in the future.

Eligible small business tenants must meet the following conditions:

  • pay monthly gross rent payments per location of $50,000 or less, 
  • have no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues on a consolidated basis, and
  • be temporarily closed or experienced a 70% drop from pre-COVID-19 revenues.

The revenue reduction will be determined by comparing revenue in April, May or June 2020 to the same months in 2019 or alternatively comparing them to the average revenue of January and February 2020.

Not-for-profit and charitable entities will also be eligible for the program.

Comments

There still remain questions that require further clarification:

  • Will a property held by a trustee corporation, but beneficially owned by another entity qualify? It appears so but the final details will need to confirm this.
  • Will the program be expanded to encompass sub-lease arrangements?
  • Will the program have any special rules for non-arms length rental arrangements?
  • Which entities will be included in the consolidated revenue determination?
  • Ontario will need to confirm whether it agrees that gross rent will be the used for the forgivable loan calculation.

While application for relief is the landlord’s responsibility, qualification for relief is dependent on the tenant’s financial results. In practice this will be difficult for the landlord to confirm.