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30 Mar

My thoughts for landlords on mortgage payment deferrals in 2020

Challenging Times

Posted by: Garth Chapman

Aside from one’s own personal sense of obligations to those in need, I believe that society as a whole bears the obligation to help those in need, at all times, and most especially in extraordinarily challenging times.

At this time a very great many Canadians are in need. The Federal & Provincial governments are honouring society’s obligations by way of the many and growing supports, now at a point where it appears that no-one is at risk of not being able to pay for food and shelter and medical costs.

Governments leaned on the banks to provide payment deferrals to Canadians, and to support that are providing liquidity to those banks to allow the banks to do what the federal government has asked. This is an extension of the governments providing the obligated supports to Canadians in need.

Landlords taking deferrals does not deprive Canadian homeowners of their own opportunities to take deferrals. The banks won’t run out of capacity to offer deferrals because the federal Gov’t won’t allow that to happen. Through all this we will stand by our (mostly long-term) tenants and support them and provide information and advice on the programs and benefits as they work their way through this.

The rules Premier Kenney announced on March 27 are essentially what we believe we and our tenants should do. And we’ve conveyed that to our tenants.

Having thought through all that last week, we prefer to take most or all of the mortgage payment deferrals we can to buttress our cash reserves. Once we are through this if we have extra cash remaining we will use it to pay down HELOC debt on our rentals. Why? Because that interest rate is higher than the rate on our mortgages.

If we were in acquisition mode (we aren’t) we would use any such funds towards purchases.

Important note re Income Tax:

Notwithstanding the tax impact of reduced rent income, we must remember that mortgage interest is a tax deductible expense. Hence, mortgage interest deferred within a tax year will reduce taxable income, meaning income taxes owing will be higher. Bottom line: expect roughly a 40% tax on every dollar of mortgage interest deferred in 2020.

In Closing

In just two months this has already become:

  • The single largest economic disruption and jobs crisis since the great depression
  • The most concentrated national efforts against a crisis since World War 11 since the Great Depression of the 1030’s
  • All of which is being driven by the biggest health emergency the world has seen since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919.

So what are we to do?

Cash is King, so preserve your cash as best you can. Take all available payment and other deferrals that you can get. Preserve available capital in your HELOCs and PLC’s.

Protect yourself in all your income and debt management decisions, and whatever you do, do it as fast as you can reasonably do it, and based on your risk tolerance. The less tolerance you have the more protective you should be.

Read more on my recommendations as to how to protect yourself in my post What Direction are Interest Rates Headed, and what should we do?