Landlord group advocates for no pot smoking or growing for renters

By Greg Higgins
November 21, 2017 - 12:00pm

A provincial landlord association is recommending owners of rental units not allow their tenants to smoke marijuana on balconies, or be allowed to grow marijuana in a building they occupy.

On Friday, the Saskatchewan Landlords Association (SKLA) held an information session for landlords and other interested parties in North Battleford. The meeting was meant to clear the air on a lot of unanswered questions regarding the rights of landlords in the province when it comes to the legalization of cannabis.

The federal government will make possession, consumption and growing of up to four cannabis plants legal on Canada Day next year.

Chanda Lockhart is the executive officer of the SKLA and advised landlords to update their leases to prohibit the growing of cannabis plants in multifamily housing, along with the complete prohibition of smoking of any kind, including on balconies.

“If a building is listed as non-smoking it means there is supposed to be no smoking on the property including balconies,” Lockhart said. “If landlords have been lenient until now on smoking on balconies they need to pull back on that and stress residents must go outside the building to smoke.”

Lockhart added the SKLA is working on provincial legislation that would prohibit growing cannabis plants and smoking of any kind in multifamily housing without the consent of the landlord.

The idea to completely prohibit smoking in multifamily buildings stemmed from a current situation transpiring in Regina. A landlord who operates a smoking apartment complex is currently being taken to task by three residents in the building. According to Lockhart, these residents are non-smokers and were bothered by the smoke, so they filed a complaint with the Rentalsman’s office and were awarded $3,000, $5,000 and $7,000.

The landlord is in the process of appealing the decision, but Lockhart said either way the situation is a game changer.   

“If they are entitled to that compensation, it will definitely be a precedent setter for tenants and landlords. If they lose then that would be great, but right now as it stands their rights were disturbed.”

The executive officer said it becomes a human rights issue and even though the residents knowingly moved into a smoking building, they still have the right to live clean, safe and comfortable in their dwelling.

She added once a situation like that occurs, landlords are pretty much forced to prohibit smoking because they can’t legally kick out a non-smoker because they are bothered by the smoke.

Lockhart also added it is much easier to simply make the building completely non-smoking as opposed to trying to prevent non-smokers from moving in, though she said landlords certainly can try.

“If landlords want to have a smoking building or even step it up and have a cannabis building once it’s legalized then that’s their choice. Tenants just need to be made very well aware that it is 100 per cent smoking and they only want to have smoking tenants. They couldn’t discriminate against [non-smokers], but they should tell them this building certainly isn’t the best idea for someone who doesn’t smoke.”

Lockhart said the transition will be tough and very inconvenient for smokers, but the SKLA is more focused on prioritizing the rights of landlords in this situation. She compared it to when restaurants made the switch to completely non-smoking and smokers claimed they would never go to restaurants again, but everything ended up working out fine.

There is one catch for landlords who operate smoking buildings if they want to make the switch to non-smoking. Lockhart said the change must be grandfathered in.

“You can only make it non-smoking for the next tenants coming in as people move out. Even if there is just one smoker left in the building, you have to allow them to smoke if they signed their lease while it was a smoking complex. New tenants must also be made aware it used to be a smoking building and that some residents are still entitled to smoke”  

Lockhart added right now those with medical marijuana cards are permitted to smoke in non-smoking buildings because it is their right, but once cannabis is legalized they may be forced to go outside of the building to smoke like everyone esle.

The executive officer said though the SKLA is advising landlords renting out single family buildings to follow suit, the decision of whether to prohibit growing and smoking is completely up to them. Lockhart said their problems might not be with neighbors, but rather insurance companies and utility bills if they allow growing on their property.

“There can be issues with mould, remediation, insurance, electrical and fires.”

She said cannabis plants create up to 10 times more moisture than regular house plants, which can contribute to and expedite mould. The plants also need additional heat lamps, which can drive up utility bills and cause additional fire hazards, causing insurance companies to drive up prices or deny insurance all together.

Ultimately, Lockhart said landlords must protect themselves first and foremost. She said completely prohibiting growing and smoking is the best way to do that and even added the federal government is looking into making smoking and growing completely illegal Canada wide in multifamily housing.   

 

On Twitter @realgreghiggins

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