In addition to the measures outlined in the Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program memo you received on March 18, 2020, the Finance Services Department is implementing additional measures, pending City Council approval, to assist residents and business owners as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
Expansion of the Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program
Over the past week, the Finance Services Department has heard from residents, business owners, and Members of Council regarding the proposed Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program. In response, the Finance Services Department will be expanding the proposed criteria to include businesses with an assessed property value of up to $7.5M that have been financially affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is over and above the measures proposed in the memo last week, which included all residential property owners and business property owners with an assessed property value of up to $2.5M. The increased business assessed property value criteria will now cover 91% of all commercial properties in Ottawa, up from 76% at the $2.5M threshold.
To qualify, an account would need to have been paid up to date before the interim tax installment.
If approved, the deferral application will be available online and would extend the interim (March 19) and final (June 18) tax due dates to October 30, 2020. The motion will define the criteria of property owner eligibility.
Corporate Accounts Receivable Invoices
Revenue Services is extending an interest free 30-day grace period for all unpaid Corporate Accounts Receivable invoices issued before April 1, 2020 and a 30-day due date extension for all Corporate Accounts Receivable Invoices issued between April 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020.
The proposed Corporate Accounts Receivable invoice grace period will be brought to City Council at the March 25, 2020 meeting.
Water Utility Bill
Revenue Services is extending an interest free 30-day payment grace period for all unpaid water bills issued before April 1, 2020 and a 30-day due date extension, for all water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020, providing residents with 47 days to pay their bill.
Pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued before April 1, 2020 will be withdrawn on the regular due date and pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020 will be withdrawn on the extended due date.
The proposed water utility bill grace period will be brought to City Council at the March 25, 2020 meeting.
Additionally, the City has extended the suspension of all water service disconnections until October 30, 2020.
As approved by City Council through the 2020 Budget, the water rate will increase 5% in April 2020. This represents a $6 increase on an average bi-monthly bill of $138, or one penny per day for 60 days. The rate increase will be phased in on each bill, with fixed charges and consumption before April 1, having the old rates apply and fixed charges and consumption consumed after April 1, having the new rates apply.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the City has an established water utility bill deferral program to support low income seniors and low-income people with disabilities. More information on the program and how to apply can be found on ottawa.ca.
Buy Local promotional campaign
In partnership with its Economic Partners Taskforce, the City of Ottawa launched the first phase of an online promotional campaign to help local businesses during these challenging times.
The campaign encourages residents to support their favourite small businesses by taking immediate and concrete steps now:
- Buy from local businesses online.
- Purchase gift cards from local businesses to use later.
- Order delivery or takeout from area restaurants.
- Send local businesses messages of support on social media.
These actions will help local shops, restaurants and services by providing them with critical income during this challenging period.
The campaign includes targeted ads that will reach residents on several online platforms over the coming weeks and direct them to ottawa.ca/buylocal. There, residents will find links to sites listing businesses serving customers virtually or providing takeout and meal delivery.
The City is also launching a web page on ottawa.ca to provide businesses with access to essential information and support programs. The page will have links to provincial and federal assistance programs, as well as details on measures offered by the City to help businesses in the coming weeks and months. This includes the property tax deferral and other relief measures that Council approved at its meeting on March 25.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be penalized for not meeting the interim property tax bill payment deadline of March 19, 2020?
No. All property owners have been given an interest free grace period up to April 15, 2020.
Will interest be applied to deferred payments?
With the implementation of the interim property tax payment, property owners will not be charged interest until after April 15, 2020, for outstanding interim property tax payments.
Property owners who qualify for the Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program will have until October 30, 2020 to pay their full property tax amount. Interest will be applied if the October 30, 2020 deadline is missed.
I am unable to pay my interim property tax bill due to hardship from COVID-19. How do I ensure I am not penalized for missing the deadline?
All property owners have been given an interest free grace period up to April 15, 2020. The City is proposing a Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program for residents and business owners financially affected by COVID-19. On March 25, 2020, City Council will consider a motion to implement the program and its criteria. If approved, residents and business owners will have the opportunity to apply for the program online prior to the April 15, 2020 grace period. Residents and business owners who qualify for the program would require payment before October 30, 2020.
I am registered for pre-authorized debit payments and am not financially impacted by COVID-19. How does the grace period affect me?
On March 17, 2020 the City of Ottawa closed our Client Service Centres to support social distancing efforts and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We recognized that this closure so close to the tax deadline could be challenging for residents who pay their property taxes in person at Client Services Centres. Given we did not extend the property tax deadline, we did extend a grace period to ensure those residents did not incur interest charges on late payments received after March 18, 2020.
Residents who are not financially impacted by COVID-19 and registered for pre-authorized debit payments do not need to take any action. Payments will continue to be withdrawn on schedule.
I am registered for pre-authorized debit payments but would like to apply to for the Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program. What should I do?
If you have been financially affected by COVID-19 and wish to cancel your preauthorized debit plan and apply for the property tax hardship deferral, please contact our staff at 613-580-2444 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City is receiving a high volume of calls and emails, we ask for your patience as we serve each resident.
Why are businesses with an assessed property value of up to $7.5M being considered for this program and not others?
The program is designed to assist business owners experiencing financial hardship from COVID-19. The original threshold of $2.5M was determined by a detailed analysis of all Commercial, Office Retail and Industrial properties in Ottawa. The $2.5M threshold captured 76% of properties within those categories.
Upon discussions with City Council members and residents, we have expanded the threshold to business owners with an assessed property value of up to $7.5M. This new threshold will capture 91% of all business properties in Ottawa.
What if my business’ landlord is not deferring my rent despite taking advantage of the Property Tax Deferral Program?
The City has no legal authority to enforce landlords to pass the deferral measures to tenants. However, as part of the motion being brought forward to City Council on March 25, 2020, property owners with tenants who do not pass on the deferral are deemed ineligible and all taxes, penalty and interest are payable immediately.
My water bill was issued in March, will I be charged interest if I pay after the due date shown on the bill?
With the implementation of the 30-day grace period for bills issued before April 1, 2020, property owners will automatically have an additional 30 days to pay their bills and will not be charged during this time.
I am practicing social-distancing or self-isolating, are there online options to view and pay my property tax bill and water utility bill?
The City is taking steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and wants to remind residents that the City offers several ways to pay water bills and property taxes, including:
- My Service Ottawa portal
- Telephone and online banking through your financial institution
- Credit or debit card online at ottawa.ca
- Pre-authorized debit
- By mail
Full details on how to use these methods can be found on ottawa.ca.
The City would also like to remind residents that property tax bills and water utility bills can be viewed, printed, and paid through My Service Ottawa.