By Victoria Brown
Ontario landlords are trying to win the right to ban pot smoking in rental units under existing tenant agreements.
Owners of rental buildings in the province are asking the government to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to allow landlords to retroactively add a no-smoking clause for cannabis to a tenant’s current lease.
Without a change to the act, tenants would be legally allowed to smoke weed in their unit as long as their existing contract did not state otherwise. Landlords would then have to wait until such tenants signed a new agreement to add a no-smoking clause.
Ian Davidson, president of Condominium Management Group in Ottawa, said landlords are concerned about the money they would have to spend removing the smell of the smoke from the walls and floors.
“It’s the biggest investment of their lives and they will lose it,” Davidson said.
However, Davidson said it’s hard to enforce consequences on a no-smoking rule in a building, because there are so many residents that it is hard to pin-point who is smoking and gather evidence of it.
“It’s difficult. It’s a case where everyone has a right to smoke it, and it’s in the landlord’s rights to protect their property.”
Kenn Hale, Director of legal services for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said landlords are trying to take advantage of a contentious situation and enhance their control.
He said landlords want to use the opportunity to implement a blanket clause in leases that should, in fact, be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. “It’s a short-cut way to impose their values, rather than get to the bottom of issues that will arise between tenants because of marijuana smoking,” said Hale. “But that’s their jobs.”
Chelsea, who smokes regularly in her Centretown unit, asked that her name not be used to prevent conflict with her landlord. She said she doesn’t think a no-smoking clause will prevent tenants from smoking because some residents of rental units are already smoking weed — before it’s been legalized — and will continue smoking up afterwards.
She said more people will be smoking in their units because there will be many new smokers after legalization, and the law will only permit smoking on private property and in residences.
However, there is a law in place that will prevent excessive smoking in rental units
Under the ORTA, whether or not a rental contract has a no-smoking clause, a tenant can be evicted if they smoke enough to disturb other residents. Michael Thiele, a personal injury lawyer who has studied landlord and tenant law for 20 years, said he believes the current law is satisfactory.
Hale said it is unlikely for the government to take this issue further. “If the law says you can do it in your homes, why should landlords be able to take that away?”