Ontario landlords seeking rights to ban marijuana use in rentals

Landlords in Ontario are seeking the right to immediately ban the use of marijuana in rental properties, once the legalization of recreational weed is finalized this summer. To stop the drugs from being consumed in their units, the landlords want to be allowed to change tenants’ existing leases.

However, due to the province’s restrictive rules on the drug, this leaves marijuana users with limited places to legally use weed. The rules for marijuana use announced in the fall, places a ban on its consumption in public places, workplaces and motorized vehicles—permitted only in private residences.

While landlords are seeking to prohibit the smoking of marijuana in rental units for new units—just as it applies for tobacco use—the province’s tenancy laws currently makes it illegal to change a lease before it expires. John Dickie, president of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, said that landlords would be unable to regulate marijuana use in their properties until an existing lease runs out—adding that the impact an increase in weed smoking will have on other tenants in rental properties, is a major cause of concern for landlords.

“(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 tobacco, the smell goes to neighbouring apartments. Buildings not hermetically sealed.”

President of DelSuites and Del Condominium Rentals property management companies, Dan Henderson, said that the cost of eradicating smell of marijuana smoke out of apartment walls and floors is around $5,000 to $6,000—despite the existence of safer and non-smoke alternatives like CBD gummies.

“It’s not the stigma (of marijuana use), it’s the number of expenses to maintain the unit and the complaints landlords receive from the neighbours,” said Henderson, whose company manages rental units for almost 2,000 landlords in the Greater Toronto Area.

Both Dickie and Henderson argue that Ontario landlords should be allowed to immediately ban tenants from smoking pot in their units, irrespective of their lease status.

“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,” said Dickie. “It would be ideal if the province automatically (made it part) of leases, unless the landlord and the tenant agree to take it out of the lease, because that would continue the status quo.”

The Ontario government Residential Tenancy Act doesn’t include explicit rules about smoking any kind of substance in a rental property, and the new marijuana rules do not contain any rules forrenters’ recreational use.

When drafting a lease, landlords have the right to include instances banning the smoking of tobacco in their property, and tenants can smoke in their own unit if it’s not included. The government also says that such rules would likely apply to marijuana when legalized.

Marijuana users who argue that few places exist for tenants to legally consume weed, support the province seeking public feedback on a proposal to allow designated outdoor smoking or vaping areas in multi-unit residences.

“It (would be) really leaving people with nowhere to go,” said Natasha Grimshaw, manager at a Toronto marijuana dispensary, of landlords banning of weed 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.”

Grimshaw also added that, having an allocated marijuana spot for a rental property could provide a suitable alternative.

“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.”

Dickie added that designated marijuana lounges would be a “great idea” if landlords could then be permitted to place bans on smoking in rental units.

“People haven’t rushed to do that with tobacco in part because it’s not expensive to set up a separate ventilation system, but in a bigger building it would make sense,” he added. “We’ll just have to weigh out the demand for it with the cost of doing it.”

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