Deadline looming for landlords wanting to ban smoking cannabis on their properties

Montreal lawyer Jamie Benizri explains how the process works, what landlords can and can't change, and how tenants can contest changes to their lease.

Lawyer Jamie Benizri explains how process works, what landlords allowed to do, how tenants can contest changes

Montreal lawyer Jamie Benizri explains what landlords can and can't change in a lease. (CBC)

The deadline is quickly approaching for landlords who want to restrict cannabis smoking on their properties — by Jan. 15 tenants need to be advised that their lease is changing to include a ban.

Once tenants receive notice of the proposed change to their lease, they have 30 days to contest it to the Régie du logement.

Kevin Lebeau, spokesperson for the Quebec Landlords Association, said there are many reasons a landlord might not want their tenants smoking pot. 

For one, they want to make sure their dwelling isn't seeped in cannabis smoke, he said. 

"Second of all, it can also constitute a nuisance for other tenants," Lebeau said. 

Montreal lawyer Jamie Benizri explains how the process works, what landlords can and can't change, and how tenants can contest changes to their lease.

How does the process work?

Once a tenant receives the notice of a lease modification from their landlord, they can contest that change.

That means going to court in front of the rental board to explain why they want to contest the modification.

"You have 30 days to respond, and if you don't, you're deemed to accept the modification and you have to live in a smoke-free environment," Benizri said.

He said the landlord needs a proof of receipt, by signing with Canada Post for example, before the 30 day countdown can begin.

Tenants can technically only give medical reasons for contesting residential cannabis smoking restrictions, but Benizri said that since cannabis is now legal, recreational users are entitled to have their day in court.

"What we're going to see is whether or not judges are going to accept the restriction for recreational use," he said.

Ultimately, Benizri said, the judge has to decide whether smoking cannabis is a nuisance to anyone else in the community, apartment building or condo block.

"If the answer is no, the judge has no reason to restrict someone's legal use of marijuana," he said.  

What about other cannabis products?

Changes to the lease must be related to smoking cannabis, Benizri said, not consuming cannabis in general.

Benizri said that it's possible for a person to consume cannabis-based products, such as THC oil, without causing a nuisance to their neighbours.

"There can be consumption without necessarily causing any kind of disturbances to the community," he said.

"Are we going to want to control all of these applications in a residential lease?" he said.

He added that the legislation exists primarily to keep a smoke-free environment.

What are landlords doing to address the issue?

Benizri said tenants he's encountered who smoke cannabis in their buildings just want to know they won't get arrested or evicted.

Some landlords, he said, have been proactive by creating common areas in the building dedicated to smoking

"What I'm seeing now is tenants saying, 'Am I allowed to smoke in my private area? Can I smoke on the rooftop?'" Benizri said.

Can tenants smoke in their apartment while they wait for court date?

Benizri said that it could take up to three months to go to court over the issue. During that period, a person can still smoke in the areas where they would normally.

"You don't have to initially, immediately conform to the modifications until a judge has ruled that the modifications have have changed and this is exactly how they're going to change," he said.

With files from CBC's Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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