Amendments would give land­lords veto over pot in build­ings

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION - ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY

Ten­ants hop­ing to grow le­gal mar­i­juana plants in their homes might soon have to deal with a new kind of drug en­force­ment — from their land­lords.

The prov­ince in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion Tues­day to give land­lords the right to pro­hibit the use, sale or grow­ing of mar­i­juana in­side rental units. It’s only one part of a string of amendments to the Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies Act that em­power land­lords in Saskatchewan.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Don Morgan told re­porters he doesn’t in­tend for the rules to af­fect the pos­ses­sion of dried mar­i­juana, but only live plants and smoking.

“Right now, land­lords have the author­ity to say a build­ing is a smoking build­ing or a non-smoking build­ing, so this ex­tends that right to cannabis users as well,” he said.

“If you choose to rent you may have to find a land­lord that’s mar­i­juana-friendly.”

The pro­posed amendments would also change rules around evic­tion ap­peals — di­rect­ing ten­ants to pay rent while their cases are be­fore the Court of Queen’s Bench — and per­mit land­lords to dis­pose of up to $1,500 of prop­erty aban­doned by former ten­ants. Cur­rently, land­lords need to seek an or­der from the Of­fice of Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies to do that, a process that can take weeks.

Chanda Lock­hart, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Saskatchewan Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion, said the evic­tion mea­sure is un­likely to work. “The se­rial non-rent pay­ers are still not go­ing to pay,” she said. But she called the other parts of the pro­posed law “awe­some.”

She said land­lords of­ten send her pic­tures about ten­ants skip­ping out on rent and leav­ing piles of prop­erty be­hind. If any­thing has the slight­est value, they have to hold onto it.

“We sit on it for four weeks,” she said. “This hap­pens on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Peo­ple will leave en­tire suites — they will walk out.”

As a prop­erty man­ager, she once walked through a unit full of dis­carded prop­erty up to her chest, in­clud­ing an un­plugged freezer full of rot­ten meat. “It was hor­ri­ble,” she said.

Lock­hart ex­pects many land­lords will make use of the mar­i­juana pro­vi­sions, and im­pose rules that say “no grow­ing of any sort.” She ar­gued that a mar­i­juana plant isn’t like a pot of gera­ni­ums. Lights and power sup­plies — of­ten a ne­ces­sity for in­door grow­ing — could be a fire risk. She’s also wor­ried about mould.

“Those plants can grow up to four feet tall and they re­tain 10 times more mois­ture than your av­er­age house­plant,” she said. “The hu­mid­ity lev­els are go­ing to rise, which is go­ing to in­crease mould in that unit.”

Ken Sailor, a mar­i­juana ac­tivist and former mem­ber of the Saskatchewan Mar­i­juana Party, said that’s sim­ply not true. He ad­mit­ted mar­i­juana plants might pro­duce a bit of an odour, but said a plant or two is un­likely to cause any dam­age to a rental prop­erty.

“You don’t need a spe­cial rule for mar­i­juana,” he said. “It’s just an­other man­i­fes­ta­tion of the war on drugs.”

The rules are al­ready there, he ar­gued. If mois­ture leads to mould, land­lords can take ac­tion. But they shouldn’t go af­ter re­spon­si­ble cannabis grow­ers.

The gov­ern­ment did spec­ify that ten­ants can con­tact the Of­fice of Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies if they feel their land­lord’s rules are un­rea­son­able. But Sailor ar­gued that it’s un­fair for renters to face new re­stric­tions while home­own­ers are free to grow their own plants.

Lock­hart has a re­ply to that: If you want to grow pot, buy your own house.

“They are wel­come to grow and smoke in their own pri­vate dwelling,” she said.

Regina land­lord Re­becca Riches said she “ab­so­lutely” agrees with the pro­posed amend­ment, and plans to im­pose the no-grow­ing rule in her own prop­er­ties. She said it’s also a mat­ter of giv­ing ten­ants choice — the choice to live in a pot­free build­ing.

“Un­less they al­low the land­lords to make those rules, you won’t have that choice,” she said.

Where there’s grow­ing, she said, there’s likely to be smoking, too.

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