Landlords seek rules on pot use, cultivation
TORONTO • The legalization of cannabis — expected in July — is creating a nightmare for Canada’s landlords.
Apartment owners are concerned about safety and potential damage to their buildings if tenants grow plants and smoke in their units. Landlords are lobbying provincial governments for legislation that would ban pot use in rental units or allow them to add restrictions to lease agreements.
“We’re hammering away at this pretty tirelessly,” said David Hutniak, chief executive officer of Landlord B.C. “Can you imagine you’re living in a 100-unit apartment and, in theory, there could be 100 grow ops in that thing? I mean, that’s ridiculous.”
Cannabis stocks have jumped and businesses are primed to cash in. Yet federal regulations on recreational use of the drug are still being worked out. Proposals include allowing people to smoke in private residences and to grow as many as four plants per rental unit. Provinces can set rules, including age limits for possession and whether landlords can restrict use on their properties.
One reason landlords don’t want tenants lighting up is many rental buildings are fairly old, so “smoke and smells are easily transmitted through hallways between units” and can disturb others who don’t want to partake, said John Dickie, president of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations.
Growing pot requires certain humidity levels that may damage apartment walls, and the electrical wires required to run the operation can start fires, said Hutniak. Budding plants also give off a pungent aroma.
Failing to implement regulations that allow landlords to ensure smoke-free, growfree units could lead to higher rents, said William Blake, spokesman for the Ontario Landlords Association.
Some provinces block landlords from extracting damage deposits from tenants, said Blake, who once spent more than $5,000 to clear the smell from a marijuana smoker’s unit.
“This is not a political issue for us — we care about taking care of our tenants and keeping costs low. When we have to pay out thousands of dollars, landlords will want to raise the rents for the next tenants.”
Some provinces seem more inclined to consider landlords’ concerns than others. A representative for B.C.’s government said regulating weed consumption and cultivation are among key policy areas the province is considering. In contrast, Ontario said it has no plans to change its rental-housing legislation, which gives tenants the right to “reasonable enjoyment” of their homes, yet allows for eviction if they cause damage.
In Quebec, apartment leases that prohibit tobacco smoking may also apply to marijuana, according to a statement from the province. Saskatchewan has introduced an amendment permitting apartment owners to restrict pot use.