Ontario landlords push for right to ban cannabis smoking by renters despite tenant laws
Cannabis users could be left with 'with nowhere to go,' said one critic of the proposal
Ontario landlords want the right to immediately ban the use of pot in rental properties when recreational weed is legalized this summer, arguing they should be allowed to change tenants' existing leases to stop the drug from being consumed in their units.
Some marijuana users say, however, that the situation would leave renters with few places to legally use weed, given the province's already restrictive rules around the drug.
Under rules announced in the fall, the province plans a ban on recreational pot consumption in public spaces and workplaces, allowing it only in private residences. Medical marijuana use will be permitted anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed, the legislation says.
Landlords will be able to spell out a ban on smoking marijuana in rental units for new leases post-legalization — the same as they do for tobacco use — but the province's tenancy laws make it illegal to change a lease before it ends.
That means in some cases, until an existing lease runs out, landlords would be unable to regulate marijuana use in their properties, said John Dickie, president of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, adding that landlords are concerned about the impact a spike in pot smoking will have on other tenants in rental properties.
"(The province is) not going to allow marijuana to be smoked in public areas, so where the heck are people going to smoke marijuana? Well they're going to do it in their apartments," he said. "The problem is, just like when they smoke tobacco, the smell goes to neighbouring apartments. Buildings are not hermetically sealed."
Not stigma, but costs, landlords say
It can cost $5,000-6,000 to get the smell of marijuana smoke out of apartment walls and floors, said Dan Henderson, president of the DelSuites property management firm in Toronto.
"It's not the stigma (of marijuana use), it's just the number of expenses to maintain the unit and the complaints landlords receive from the neighbours," said Henderson, whose company manages rental units for approximately 2,000 landlords in the Greater Toronto Area.
Dickie and Henderson both argue Ontario landlords should be allowed to immediately prohibit tenants from smoking marijuana in their units, even if the tenants are mid-lease.
"As it stands (before) legalization, tenants are banned from smoking marijuana in a building and you don't have to write it in the lease because it's the law," Dickie said."It would be ideal if the province automatically (made it part) of leases, unless the landlord and tenant agree to take it out of the lease, because that would continue the status quo."
The Ontario government says its Residential Tenancy Act does not include explicit rules about smoking substances of any kind in a rental property, and the new pot laws do not contain any rules for renters engaging in recreational use.
Landlords have the right to include stipulations banning tobacco smoke when drafting a lease but if they do not, a tenant can smoke in their own unit. Those rules will likely apply to marijuana when it is legalized, the government says.
'Nowhere to go'
The province is also currently seeking public feedback on a proposal to allow designated outdoor smoking or vaping areas in multi-unit residences, an idea welcomed by some marijuana users who argue some tenants may otherwise have few places they can consume pot.
"It (would be) really leaving people with nowhere to go," Natasha Grimshaw, a manager at a Toronto marijuana dispensary, said of landlords banning pot in units. "You have more freedom (to smoke) now when it's illegal than you will when you're supposed to be free to smoke it."
Having a dedicated marijuana space for a rental property could provide a suitable compromise, Grimshaw said.
"Condos have theatre rooms, party rooms, so why not have marijuana rooms?" she said. "They could even make restrictions that you need to use vaporizers (instead) of smoking a joint so it's not a smoke and you're not going to necessarily be upsetting too many people in the building."
Designated marijuana lounges would be "a great idea" if landlords could then also ban smoking in rental units, Dickie added.
"People haven't rushed to do that with tobacco in part because it's not inexpensive to set up a separate ventilation system, but in a bigger building it would make sense," he added. "We'll just all have to weigh out the demand for it with the cost of doing it."