SASKATOON -- A Saskatchewan landlord says she can’t evict a tenant she claims owes her nearly $6,000 in late rent after the province placed a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic.

Mary Anne Donald rents a single-family home north of Moosoomin, Sask. to a family.

She told CTV her tenants have been behind on rent since November 2019, and while Donald said partial payments have been made, as of June 1, the tenant will be behind $5,990.

Donald said the province’s moratorium on evictions has taken away her power to evict the tenant.

The Office of Residential Tenancies suspended evictions in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the temporary rule change, evictions are only allowed if a situation is deemed dangerous.

“For people in my position, if they have no incentive or desire to pay prior to the moratorium, why would they now? Because now they get to live for free,” Donald said.

The Saskatchewan Landlord Association said it has been urging the government to amend the eviction freeze.

“The eviction ban is putting landlord’s properties at risk,” Executive Officer Cameron Choquette said. 

“It doesn’t allow us to evict people who are not paying rent or who are seriously abusing housing in the province.”

Choquette said while many landlords and tenants have made arrangements on rental payments, there are some tenants who are not communicating with landlords and not paying rent.

“Tenants who have been stonewalling landlords don’t deserve free housing because there is assistance available to them and that rent should be paid,” Choquette said. 

The association is asking for an amendment directive to the office of residential tenancies, allowing hearing officers some discretion in listening to claims from landlords who have taken appropriate steps to make arrangements with tenants, only to have tenants not pay. 

“So we can protect landlords properties and the small business landlords who are not able to evict people who are deliberately withholding rent,” he said

 In a letter sent to the provincial government in March, the association recommended an alternative approach, suggesting the province to set up a rent bank to help tenants and landlords who have been financially strained because of COVID-19.

In the letter, Choquette said funds disbursed through a provincially-funded rent bank would be paid directly to landlords, ensuring that funds are used for the intended purpose.

On April 30, the province's social services minister Paul Merriman declined the association's request for a rent bank, adding it felt it would only help tenants and renters in the short-term.

“The rent bank model has not shown to be as effective for renters who might be faced with prolonged financial hardship,” Merriman wrote in a response letter to the association.