CALGARY -- The province says commercial landlords will no longer be allowed to evict business tenants without first applying for rental relief from the government.

“By taking measures that will address actions by commercial landlords who fail to act responsibly and fairly by increasing rent or threatening eviction for tenants for non-payment, we will address the short comings of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program,” Premier Jason Kenney said Friday.

In April, the provincial and federal governments agreed to subsidize the rent of small businesses struggling to stay afloat because of pandemic restrictions.

Those governments would cover half the rent for three months, if the tenant and landlord split the other half.

If landlords dropped the rent by at least 75 per cent, they would not have to pay back any of the money the government chipped in.

Otherwise, it would be a loan.

However, Kenney says it appears many landlords aren’t taking advantage of the relief program, choosing instead to evict tenants who can’t make rent.

“In this economic situation it makes no sense for a commercial landlord to kick out a tenant where there is going to be no one to fill that space,” said Kenney.

The province is also offering a one-time cash subsidy to small businesses still struggling to stay afloat.

Companies with 500 employees or less are eligible for either $5,000 or 15 per cent of one month’s revenue, whichever is lower.

Chin Hung hopes to take the government up on its offer.

His family has owned The Lazy Monkey — an Asian Fusion restaurant in Brentwood — for the last nine years.

“Sales were down 80 per cent in April,” said Hung, who helped launch the business just a few years after his family moved to Calgary from Taiwan.

“We are starting to see it coming back but we are still down at least 70 per cent.”

Hung says he’s only been able to make his rent because the landlord cut him a deal, waiving part of the rent for two months.

His landlord is now applying for the government subsidy so he can reduce rent longer.

Hung says the break on rent and the possible top up from taxpayers via the government’s subsidy program could be the difference between his business keeping the lights on or closing for good

“There was a point in time I was thinking of (closing),” said Hung.

“But when we face a problem, it's better to face it, try your best first. I received a lot of help throughout the community, we will keep going and I believe by the end of this year we can try to cover our loss and can move on from it.”