Question: I was wondering how apartment buildings will work when it comes legalization and the laws. Are landlords allowed to ban tenants from smoking in their apartment?
A lot of apartment tenants are in the dark about this subject so it would really help. — Reefer Renter
Answer: I can’t answer this question completely without knowing where in Canada you live. Much like the laws on condo governance, laws on apartment rentals and tenants’ rights fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, so they vary across the country.
To make matters even more confusing, there’s no single organization in Canada that focuses on tenants’ rights on a national basis; instead, there are lots of different tenants’ rights groups in individual provinces and territories, with many focusing on issues in specific cities.
Still, I’ll try and give you an overview of what landlords can do about cannabis in various parts of the country. Let’s start with the big one: Ontario.
I called up Geordie Dent, executive director of the Toronto-area Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, to get some information. Under Ontario law, landlords can’t generally issue “blanket bans” on tenants’ activities without a reason, Dent said.
“You can ban smoking, if smoke is interfering with (tenants’) reasonable enjoyment — it’s bothering them because they’ve got asthma, it’s bothering them because they’re allergic — these are totally valid reasons to ban it, but there has to be some kind of basis in law to do it,” he said.
Some Ontario landlords, though, will still include “no smoking” clauses in apartment leases without a specific reason, regardless of the law.
“You can absolutely put a ‘You’re not allowed to smoke’ provision in a lease, but that provision has no basis in law, you don’t actually have to follow it,” said Dent.
Certain provinces have taken the time to specifically address the issue of cannabis smoking in apartments in their new provincial laws.
Under Quebec’s relatively restrictive provincial cannabis law, for example, landlords have a limited window of time to modify the conditions of the lease by adding a prohibition against smoking marijuana.
In Nova Scotia, the provincial Cannabis Control Act specifically gave landlords permission to to amend existing leases with new rules about recreational cannabis smoking and cultivation during a limited time before April 30, 2019, as long as they give tenants appropriate notice.
In New Brunswick, landlords can restrict all smoking (including cannabis) in rental units, but if they do allow smoking, they can’t specifically ban cannabis smoking.
On the opposite coast, the government of British Columbia amended relevant provincial laws to prohibit cannabis smoking under existing leases that prohibit smoking tobacco.
Here in Herb’s home province of Manitoba, landlords are allowed to set “house rules” prohibiting smoking, according to a provincial spokesperson. Manitoba’s updated smoking law also prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, which includes common areas of residential complexes, wrote the spokesperson.
Next door in Saskatchewan, an amendment to that province’s rental law specifically gives landlords the right to impose rules prohibiting the possession, use and sale of cannabis in a rental unit.
Likewise, landlords in Alberta can legally prohibit the smoking of all substances, including cannabis, in their buildings or on their properties.
I hope that overview of provincial laws relating to smoking and cannabis helps, Reefer Renter. If you’re still confused, I’d advise you to contact a tenants’ rights group in your area. Most major Canadian cities have these groups, and many of them have hotlines that you can call for free advice.
Finally, I’ll add my usual caveat: a landlord’s ability to ban cannabis smoking might be hampered if the tenant in question is a legal medical cannabis user who could potentially claim accommodation under relevant provincial human rights laws.