On Thursday, May 14, CMHC provided an update on the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. Our summary below has been updated and revised to reflect the most recent updates from CMHC.
On Friday, April 24, in an effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses forced to cease or reduce operations and landlords who rent commercial properties to small businesses, the Federal Government announced a program targeted to reduce rent obligations during this period of closure.
This is a joint program between the federal government and the provincial governments. Details coming from both levels of government are still in progress.
Here is a summary of what we know so far as it relates to Ontario tenants:
WHAT IS AN IMPACTED SMALL BUSINESS TENANT?
This Program is intended for small businesses, non-profits and charities. Impacted small business tenants or subtenants are defined as entities:
- with monthly gross rent of no more than $50,000 per location (as defined by a valid and enforceable lease agreement)
- The property owner for each separate location will need to apply for the program for that location, and the program will only apply to a location/lease that meets the eligibility criteria
- that generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues, calculated on a consolidated basis (at the ultimate parent level); and
- have experienced a 70% drop in revenues from ordinary activities in Canada, calculated using your normal accounting method and excluding revenue from extraordinary items
- Can be calculated by a comparison of each month, April, May and June, to the same month in 2019 or
- alternatively compared to the average gross revenues for January and February 2020
- Registered charities and non-profit organizations have the option to either include or exclude revenue from government sources as part of the calculation
- Eligible small business tenants who are in sub-tenancy arrangements are also eligible, if the lease structure meets the program criteria
- Landlord’s and tenants who are not at arm’s length will be included in the CECRA program as long as there was a valid and enforceable lease agreement in place prior to April 1, on no greater than market terms
Criteria have been expanded to include situations where a property owner’s small business is the only tenant (i.e., both property owner and sole tenant
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY FOR THE CECRA FOR SMALL BUSINESS PROGRAM?
Commercial property owners will qualify for the CECRA program when they meet the following requirements:
- Own or be the landlord of commercial real property* located in Canada which is occupied by one or more impacted small business tenants
- Have entered into or will enter into a rent reduction agreement for the 3 month period from April, May, and June 2020, that will reduce the impacted small business tenant’s rent by at least 75%;
- The rent reduction agreement needs to include a moratorium on eviction for the period of April, May and June 2020
- Declared rental income on the personal or corporate tax return for tax years 2018 and/or 2019
* Commercial real property is defined as commercial properties with small business tenants. Commercial properties with a residential component and multi-unit residential mixed-use properties would equally be eligible with respect to their impacted small business tenants.
An Important Update – Prior to previous guidance, there is no longer mention of a requirement that the property have a mortgage. CECRA for small businesses will be administered undifferentiated for properties with mortgages, other forms of debt, or no mortgages at all.
In Ontario, the following are excluded from the OCECRA program:
- Entities owned by individuals holding political office
- Entities that promote violence, incite hatred or discriminate on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability; and,
- An entity in the Lenders special accounts or Restructuring Group prior to March 1, 2020
- The Program pertains to rent payments for the months of April, May and June.
- Property owners can apply later and the program will be applied retroactively
- Applications are expected to be open late May 2020
- Deadline to apply is August 31, 2020
HOW IT WILL WORK:
- As part of the application process, property owners will need to provide attestations for each impacted tenant that is seeking relief/assistance
- The cost of monthly “rent” is to be split 3 ways – tenants are expected to pay up to 25% of the tenant’s gross rent payable under the lease agreement, landlords will cover no less than 25% of the rent (through rent reduction), and the government will cover the remaining 50% in the form of forgivable loans.
- The forgivable loans will be disbursed directly from the commercial property’s mortgage lender.
- The program will be administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
- Property owners must refund amounts paid by the small business tenant for the period
- However, if agreed upon by both the property owner and the tenant, a credit to the tenant for a future month’s rent (i.e., July for April) can be applied
- CMHC has indicated there will be an online application process that includes fillable fields and templates of the documents required. Property owners will need to provide information to prove eligibility including:
- Proof of an existing rent reduction agreement
- Moratorium on eviction, and
- Attestation from the impacted small business tenant of the 70% decline in revenue
The May 14 update provided some welcome additional clarifications, which hopefully make it easier for property owners and tenants to reach agreement.
Program details in in progress and will be released soon, including how to apply for CECRA. We will continue to keep updated as more details become available.