SASKATOON -- Five months of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to $30 million in arrears for landlords across the province according to the Saskatchewan Landlords Association.

The bulk of those arrears is the result of tenants withholding rent, according to executive officer Cameron Choquette.

“These are tenants who chose not to pay rent even though they may have had the money over those five months and what we’re seeing now is tenants actually skipping out and doing midnight departures because the eviction ban has been lifted and those rent arrears are coming due,” Choquette said.

On Monday, Justice Minister Don Morgan announced the Office of Residential Tenancies and the province will lift the ban on evictions for non-payment of rent.

Morgan said the province placed a ban because the province did not want to see renters forced out of their homes because of financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and possible loss in income.

Morgan said the ORT will begin to accept eviction applications for non-payment of rent beginning Aug. 4, something Choquette said his association pushed for earlier this year.

Last week CTV News spoke to Boyd Godfrey who said he is owed more than $10,000 in rent arrears, claiming his tenant hasn’t paid rent or utilities since February. Godfrey said his tenant told him he doesn’t have to pay because of new government rules.

“Our last payment from him was in February, from that point he hasn’t paid any utilities or any rent so we’re about $10,000 roughly — money I’ll never get paid,” Godfrey said on Wednesday.

Pleased with the news of the ORT returning back to normal, Godfrey said he’s hopeful to have his hearing near the end of August or September, but that means two more months of no rent from his one tenant.

“Every day that goes by I’m losing money,” he said.

Sharon Moormann with Western Premium Property Management in Saskatoon said even when tenants who took a rent holiday are evicted, there’s no mechanism for landlords to collect arrears from tenants who are on social assistance.

“There was no relief for landlords and I think people will be left in financial trouble.”

Choquette said the fallout of the eviction ban may have long-term effects on the rental housing market, including a rental shortage and a decrease in affordability as landlords attempt to recuperate losses incurred over the past five months.

“They might be forced to increase prices to recoup costs but if the rental housing supply decreases because landlords are selling their properties in order to recoup costs, then we might see affordability decrease, and we might see supply decrease which will negatively impact renters,” Choquette said.

Because of a large number of eviction applications, Choquette said he expects a two to four-month waiting period for evictions notices to come through.