Saskatoon

How 1 Sask. expert's own condo board dealt with legal pot in members' homes

"It's a lot harder to be dealing with things later on and take something away from someone than it is right from the start saying this is not really going to be an option," says the condo board president.

18-member Regina condo board tasked small research group; voters to decide on smoking ban before legalization

A Canadian real estate lawyer says it will be easier in the long run for condo boards if they set rules about pot usage now rather than after the legalization of pot this October. (The Canadian Press)

A Canadian real estate lawyer is urging people who live in condos to set building-wide pot-use rules now rather than after the drug becomes legal on Oct. 17.

And that's exactly what one small condo board in Regina is doing.

Brandon Hicks is the president of a condo board representing 18 stacked units in Regina. He also advises condo boards for a living and is the vice president of CCI South Saskatchewan, a non-profit group that provides information about condos.

Drafted a research group 

Hicks' condo board, which took possession of its building last year, formed a four-member bylaw committee to review and suggest revisions to the building's rules.

The board used the impending legalization of pot as an opportunity to tackle smoking of all types.

"It was a good size, I thought, for the ability to have a fruitful discussion about some of the topics and then eventually come to a census," said Hicks of the four-member bylaw committee.  

Voting on it before legalization

The committee is recommending a complete prohibition on smoking, including vaping, that covers patios too.

"There's just too many issues, we thought, that could potentially come up: smoke migration between units, decreases potentially in property values," said Hicks.  

Brandon Hicks of Regina is the president of an 18-member condo board. His group will vote on a complete smoking ban in the building before the Oct. 17 date of legalization. (Brandon Hicks)

The building's residents are a mixed demographic: younger professionals, more senior careerists and some retirees. They'll vote on the proposed ban at the condo board's annual general meeting before Oct. 17.

According to Saskatchewan's Condominium Property Act, bylaw changes require the approval of two thirds of the condo board's voting members.

Harder to 'take something away'

Robert Noce, an Alberta-based condominium, municipal and real estate lawyer, says condominium corporations should settle the issue sooner rather than later.

"The simple reason is to avoid the scenario where you may have to grandfather an existing tenant for that particular use," said Noce.

Real estate lawyer Robert Noce prefers dealing with the issue now "to avoid the scenario where you may have to grandfather an existing tenant for that particular use." (Miller Thomson)

If some existing members do need to be grandfathered, deciding the issue now will at least set a clear demarcation line, he added.

"I understand that perspective when it comes to being proactive," said Hicks, "because it's a lot harder to be dealing with things later on and take something away from someone than it is right from the start saying this is not really going to be an option."

Pot-friendly condos or not 

Hicks added that condo boards like his have to balance the human rights of people (medical marijuana users, say) versus the effect of smoke on other residents.

"We're going to probably see some struggles even in the condominium context when you peel down to the medical level and try to figure out how those rights to make it a smoke-free building interplay with a medical patient's rights to consume their cannabis," said Trina Fraser, an Ontario cannabis lawyer.

More generally, "I think ultimately it will probably evolve to the point where you're going to either know you're buying a unit within a cannabis-friendly condominium or a cannabis-banned condominium," she added.

More than 1,600 condominium corporations existed in the province as of 2014, according to the Saskatchewan government. 

Hicks said there are other ways to deal with the issue. Instead of striking sub-committees, larger boards can tackle the issue themselves.

Other condo boards are conducting surveys before making suggestions, he added.

"I think that's another great option," he said.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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