Gowling WLG has been monitoring the development of COVID-19 closely and is continuously advising clients as more information becomes available. In the interest of helping commercial landlords and property managers manage the challenges created by the outbreak of COVID-19, Gowling WLG has prepared the following bulletin.
Updates will be available as new information is released.
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Closure of Non-Essential Workplaces: As of Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., the Province of Ontario will be ordering the closure of non-essential workplaces. These businesses will be permitted to continue to operate remotely only. On March 23, 2020 the Province issued its list of essential workplaces. Based on the limited information provided by the Province to date, we note the following in relation to commercial landlords and property managers:
- Property management services are deemed an essential service and as such, landlords and property managers do not need to close their property management offices or require their staff to work remotely. [See #13 and 70 of the Province's list of essential workplaces – copied below.]
- there appears to be no language ordering the physical closure of buildings and as such, we suggest that until landlords are unable to do so as a consequence of force majeure (as defined in the respective leases), landlords have a contractual obligation to their tenants not to deny access to their leased premises ie they must keep the buildings open.
- Cleaners, security companies and other businesses that provide support and maintenance services essential to the operation of commercial buildings are also deemed to be an essential service. [See #13 and 70 of the Province's list of essential workplaces – copied below.]
- Some landlords are asking if being deemed to be an essential service means that they cannot elect to close completely or work remotely. We see nothing in this announcement that stipulates this.
Extracts from the Province of Ontario March 23, 2020 list of Essential Workplaces:
"Institutional, Residential, Commercial and Industrial Maintenance
13. Businesses that provide support and maintenance services, including urgent repair, to maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial industrial and residential properties and buildings, including, property management services,plumbers, electricians, custodial/janitorial workers, cleaning services, , security services, fire safety and sprinkler systems, building systems maintenance and repair technicians and engineers, mechanics, (e.g. HVAC, escalator and elevator technicians), and other service providers who provide similar services;
70. Businesses that support the safe operations of residences and essential businesses;"
View the Province's announcements below: