Amendments would give landlords veto over pot in buildings
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.