Pot legalization contains a lot of uncertainties for landlords
Marijuana becomes legal is just a few weeks, yet local landlords still have questions about how to deal with tenants who smoke or grow cannabis in their units.
About 40 local landlords heard from a panel of experts in North Bay Wednesday about the incoming rules surrounding recreational cannabis, which becomes legal on Oct. 17.
But even they, including police and fire officials, an insurance adjuster and paralegal, say the implications of legal pot remains murky territory. And it’s going to take some time to weed out answers, they say.
When it comes to insurance, for instance, the information session, which was hosted by the Near North Landlords Association, heard that the industry is hesitant at this point to offer related coverage.
Bob Palangio, of Optimum Insurance, told the meeting most insurers currently have strict wording within their policies that refuse coverage for damages related to cannabis, whether it’s mold caused by humidity from plants or fire damage from grow lights or other related activities.
With legalization, he said that’s likely to change, suggesting providers are apt to develop packages that will offer coverage for such risks. But Palangio said the industry just isn’t there yet.
Cannabis use will be restricted under the law to private residences – including the outdoor space of a home – as well as rental units and balconies. For multi-unit buildings like apartments or condos, the province says it will depend on the building’s rules or tenant lease agreements.
The law will also allow people to grow up to four plants per residence.
Landlords will be able to ban smoking and growing marijuana in rental units for new leases – similar to what’s in place now for tobacco use. But the province’s tenancy laws make it illegal to change a lease before it ends.
John Wilson, president of the landlord’s association, said many members, including himself, however, have been including such prohibitions against marijuana in new leases for the past 18 months.
he said legal weed isn’t here yet and landlords don’t really know what to expect. but he said Wednesday’s information session was aimed at helping them get prepared.
“The more we know and the more we know up front, the better protected we will be,” he said, noting concerns include increased electricity costs related to tenants growing marijuana in their apartments, along with related fire hazards from lights and extension cords. he said landlords are also worried about the impact pot smoking will have on other tenants in rental properties.
From a legal perspective, paralegal Jennifer schmidt said landlords will be “navigating uncharted territory.”
she said landlords will be required to strike a balance between their obligations to all tenants, noting that will include compliance under the ontario human rights Code. In some cases, she said, it may take court rulings and precedents before the waters are clear. deputy Fire Chief mike bechard told the meeting “the Fire Code does not regulate lifestyle.”
but he said the fire department does have the power to address safety issues that may be associated with pot legalization.
he pointed to the ability to issue fines to tenants who tamper with or disable smoke detectors. and bechard said the department can step in to prevent tenants from creating cannabis oil, which is a high fire risk due to the use of solvents such as butane. In addition, he said the department can put a stop to the unsafe use of extension cords.
deputy police Chief scott Tod there are still more question than answers as to how the pot legislation will be applied. and, like landlords, he said police also have many concerns.
Tod pointed to issue such as road safety, youth diversion and those surrounding human resources and employee use of marijuana.
“These are question that we don’t have answers to right now,” he said.
The Near North Landlords Association hosted a panel of local experts who spoke Wednesday at Ecole secondaire publique Odyssee about the incoming cannabis legislation. The panel included police and fire officials, an insurance adjuster, doctor and paralegal.