Of landlords and legal pot: Province charts course for tenancy restrictions

Landlords will be able to restrict smoking and cultivation of legalized cannabis in their residential properties, according to the New Brunswick government.

Existing leases can be amended to restrict smoking or growing, but only through mutual consent

The province said landlords will be able to restrict pot smoking and growing in new leases. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Landlords will be able to restrict smoking and cultivation of legalized cannabis in their residential properties, according to the New Brunswick government.

Tenancy issues were among several topics provincial officials addressed in Fredericton on Thursday, a week and a half after the senate passed the federal government's bill legalizing recreational marijuana.

Pot will become legal to consume and grow in private dwellings on Oct. 17.

Kim Snow, the province's chief residential tenancies officer, said she has been speaking with concerned landlords who wish to prohibit cultivation and smoking.

They will get their wish, she said. Landlords can include those terms in new leases.

But what about existing leases?

Current "no smoking" clauses cover smoking pot, but not other methods of consumption. Unless the existing lease states that smoking and cultivation is illegal, it will be legal after Oct. 17.

Kim Snow, chief residential tenancies officer, said landlords can amend existing leases to include clauses for pot smoking and growing, but tenants would have to agree to such amendments. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Snow said amendments can be made to existing leases, but they have to be agreed upon by both landlord and tenant.

"If, for example, the tenant did not want to agree to that term of their lease, then the landlord would have to wait until the expiry of their lease or end it by natural terms of their contract," Snow said.

Bill C-45 permits adults to cultivate up to four plants in their own residence and possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis.

'Makes sense'

A collection of Fredericton university students, one of the main tenant groups in the city, said Thursday the rules are reasonable.

"Makes sense," said Brandon Gillis. "I know cultivation requires a lot of resources, a lot of heat and there's a lot of energy required to grow it."

Brandon Gillis said he can understand why landlords would be opposed to tenants growing cannabis on their property. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Matthew Hovey said it should be treated like smoking cigarettes.

"Obviously you don't want cigarette smoke clouding up the other apartments," he said.

Nigel Pelky said: "If it's their property, then it's their right to make that call. If I owned a building myself, I probably wouldn't want someone doing that if it's going to depreciate the value."

Enforcement issues

Gerry Webster, vice-president of the Saint John Apartment Owners' Association, said he's aware of the avenues to amend existing leases. His members' main concerns, however, are for the possible side effects of cannabis and what that means for their properties.

He said destruction of property by people in an altered state of mind has been and continues to be a problem for landlords as well as trouble collecting rent from tenants with addictions.

Landlord association member Gerry Webster said he's concerned about the destruction of property. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Webster said he's left with more questions than answers about it's going to be enforced.

"They have not been able to enforce it when it's illegal. How are they going to be able to enforce the legal use of it?" he said.

"We're in the middle of everything. It's around our properties. How do we handle it? What do we do?"

If tenants skirt pot smoking and growing rules, Webster said the Residential Tenancies Act affords more protection to tenants than landlords, making it difficult and time-consuming to pursue eviction or costs owed.

"The lease is only as good as the people who sign it."

With files from Catherine Harrop and Colin McPhail