What Calgary renters need to know when pot is legal

When cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17, many people who rent their homes will not be allowed to smoke or grow it there. A huge property management group, Boardwalk, sent a notice to tenants recently saying it was banned in their units.

'Just because it is legal doesn’t dictate where you can use it,' landlord association warns

Many tenancy agreements prohibit smoking or growing marijuana in the home. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17, many people who rent their homes will not be allowed to smoke or grow it there. A huge property management group, Boardwalk, sent a notice to tenants recently saying it was banned in their units.

The Calgary Residential Rental Association represents about 70 per cent of the city's rental properties. Its executive director Gerry Baxter spoke to The Homestretch on this hot topic this week.

This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview right here.

Gerry Baxter is the executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association. The group represents about 70 per cent of the city’s rental properties. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Q: How significant is this news for renters?

A: The feedback I have from landlords is that the majority of tenants are supportive of their actions.

Many of them right now have no-smoking policies in the building so they will just add cannabis to that. There will be no smoking. There will still be some buildings that allow smoking.

It will be up to those landlords to determine if they make any changes relative to adding cannabis.

Q: What percentage of your members allow tobacco smoking in their buildings right now?

A: We haven't gauged that. My guess would be at least half.

Q: Do you have to change tenant agreements for when the law changes?

A: We did, in consultation with our members. Our members are really fearful about this new legislation, because right now, many of them don't allow smoking on the property, or if they do, some tenants will smoke marijuana.

In other cases, we know over the years people have smoked marijuana, illegally, but they've smoked it.

It's a source of complaint that landlords received from other tenants. While it's OK for somebody to smoke who enjoys it, quite often they are interfering with the rights of other tenants, to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes as well.

Q: What about medicinal cannabis, how are those users affected by these changes?

A: We haven't spoken specifically in our lease amendments to medicinal cannabis, so there is nothing to prevent people from smoking it or growing it, but if the landlord has a prohibition against that, those tenants may have to find someplace else to grow or to smoke it.

That certificate entitles you to smoke it or grow it, but it doesn't say where.

Q: You held a seminar on cannabis questions last December and more than 200 members came. What were some of their concerns?

A: The big concern is, "Will this lead to an increase in what is already happening illegally now." That's a huge concern.

One landlord said to me the other day, "I have a designated smoking area on my property, but some people smoke marijuana there and that smell drifts into open doors and windows of other units and then I get complaints from those tenants."

So the biggest concern is that landlords might field more complaints if tenants are allowed to smoke it once it's legal in their units.

Then there's the growing. The legislation permits people to grow four plants.

The concern is, will four be enough for some people or does it turn into a small grow-op?

You also need more powerful lighting systems that the building's electrical system may not be equipped to handle and you have the danger of potential fire.

The humidity tends to create mould. Then there are the insurance issues.

Are there going to be insurance companies that will cover the damage caused by the growing of marijuana? I understand the insurance industry is looking at it. That may not satisfy landlords.

Q: Has it been specifically written into the revised tenant agreements that you cannot grow marijuana?

A: Yes. There is no producing of cannabis or any of its products or derivatives.

Q: How would they be different than houseplants, as far as agreements go?

A: To grow marijuana you need a lighting system with powerful bulbs generating high heat and a good watering system.

Q: Are you concerned about potential legal action from people who want to smoke it?

A: Just because it is legal, doesn't dictate where you can use it.

Calgary has banned it in public places. There is no difference. This is not the tenant's property, they don't own the building.

Q: What if someone smokes it in their unit, what can the landlord do?

A: It will be a contractual issue based on what is in the tenancy agreement. Landlords could take steps to terminate that tenancy.

With files from The Homestretch.


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