Major Canadian landlords are taking it on the chin these days with the perception that they’re not stepping up and helping out small businesses who might not be able to survive the blow being delivered by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
But a national association that includes building owners and managers says many landlords are indeed stepping up to help in this time of crisis.
“This is a moment of great national crisis, even as it brings out the best in Canadians. Canada’s landlords are being hit hard, but are also stepping up in a big way, and going above and beyond. We support our members which can assist tenants in this trying time, even as we recognize that our members are themselves under great strain and need to pay their own bills too. We’re very proud of our members,” said Benjamin Shinewald, President and Chief Executive Officer of BOMA Canada (Building Owners and Managers Association).
BOMA Canada has about 3,500 members spread across 11 regional chapters. They focus on asset management, property management, building operations and associated vendors, suppliers and partners. BOMA Canada is an affiliated member of BOMA International, a federation of 93 BOMA U.S. associations and 16 international affiliates.
Its mission is to advance the interests of the entire commercial real estate industry through advocacy, education, research, standards, and information.
Shinewald said the federal government should step in with programs to provide relief to landlords who can then provide relief to tenants.
“Almost the entire Canadian economy occurs inside of our members’ buildings. Our industry is stepping up to do our share and then some, but we will need support to ensure that thousands upon thousands of Canadian businesses remain viable, not to mention the hundreds of thousands who live in our buildings. We need the government to help out in this critical moment,” he said.
“So far, Canadian landlords are taking the right steps to ensure that their tenants remain viable and vibrant. Tenants are our partners – we need them to succeed in order for us to succeed. I have heard of no particular crises as yet, though I suppose some are inevitable.”
While major landlords might be getting a bad public image out of this for not responding, Shinewald said major landlords are leading corporate citizens right now.
“I know of several who are working quietly behind the scenes and don’t want to publicize their efforts, which is so admirable,” he said.
He cited some examples:
KingSett is opening up the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto to front-line healthcare workers who cannot go home and need a free place to sleep;
First Capital REIT created a $30 million program to provide rent relief to small business tenants; and
Smart Centres is offering rent-free use of a total of up to one million square feet of space in 200 shopping centres across the country, as well as its land, parking lots and signage, to all Canadian governments and healthcare authorities, effective immediately, to assist in their COVID-19 support efforts.
“I think that this is a moment of extraordinary goodwill. Everyone wants to help. The collective good is more important than the individual good, because there is no individual success without the collective success. My advice is for everyone to do everything they can to assist their tenant, their landlord, their neighbour, their family and themselves to get through this crisis as well as possible,” said Shinewald.
“But I don’t need to give this advice. It is happening, and it is a moment where Canada, and the Canadian commercial real estate industry, is at its finest.”
In a news release, Subway Developments 2000 Inc. said Ivanhoé Cambridge has offered their tenants much needed rent concessions to assist as they maneuver through significant sales and operational challenges due to COVID-19.
“In a letter to tenants, Roman Drohomirecki, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Ivanhoé Cambridge has stated that they, along with its partners, will do all they can to bolster the Canadian economy during this unprecedented time of COVID-19,” said Subway.
“On behalf of over 120 Sandwich Artists who work in 10 Subway®sandwich shops located on Ivanhoé Cambridge properties across BC & AB, we would like to thank Ivanhoé Cambridge for partnering with us in this time of need,” said Simon Lileikis, President of Subway Development 2000, the master franchisor for British Columbia and Alberta.
“It’s partnerships like these, organizations stepping up and doing the right thing that will help us all come out of this crisis stronger, smarter and leaner.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Ivanhoé Cambridge said: “As a measure to help with the COVID-19 situation, Ivanhoé Cambridge is granting a deferral of the rent payable for the month of April to certain retail tenants in its Canadian portfolio. This deferral will be granted on a case-by-case basis and for a period of time to be specified based on the evolution of the COVID-19 situation.”