What does the legalization of cannabis mean for landlords and their rental properties?

On Wednesday, October 17th, 2018, the legalization of a potentially multi-billion dollar all-natural drug brought hordes of people to Canada’s new marijuana dispensaries. Cannabis became legal to possess, grow, and smoke within the parameters of the Cannabis Act all over Canada. The second country to legalize the usage of recreational marijuana, after Uruguay in 2013. Canada is now home to legal marijuana dispensaries across the country. And, whether you’ve been eagerly waiting for this day to arrive or undeniably dreading it, the legalization affects you as a Canadian citizen. The question is, how is this going to affect Canadian rental properties and tenants?

As of the 17th, purchasing legal marijuana is an easy task for residents anywhere in Canada. While the availability varies from province to province, online sales are available through the government and private sources across the country.

The use of marijuana is permitted in private residences and is allowed anywhere that cigarette smoking and vaping is allowed, according to the legislation. Smoking and vaping of cannabis is not permitted in public areas frequented by children, hospitals or other care facilities, vehicles/boats, and other specific publicly owned spaces. The ability to smoke within private residences has brought definite concern for potential multifamily housing tenants. With the stigma aside, it will be tricky for landlords to deal with and manage any disruption or annoyance that the smoking will cause neighbouring tenants. As well, any possible damage and extra costs subsequent of the usage within properties.

Although there is reasonable concern surrounding tenants’ cannabis usage within multifamily housing, there is special consideration given for medicinal usage. For many people suffering with PTSD or diseases that cause long term pain, such as cancer, glaucoma or crohn’s, medicinal marijuana is an incredible natural therapy for pain alleviation, appetite regulation, and relief of nausea, among other things. The medicinal variant of the cannabis plant is also considered a safer medication than many other options prescribed for pain relief. Medicinal marijuana is used to treat a medical disability, and so landlords and other tenants will need to accommodate medical marijuana users with more leniency than recreational marijuana users. However, the medicinal users should be attempting to achieve a situation that meets their needs, while providing the least possible interference to other tenants. There are other options for consuming marijuana besides smoking, such as edibles or vapor, that can be less disruptive to neighbouring tenants.

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Wondering what your rights are to make decisions regarding your tenants’ usage? Here are the basics of what residential landlords should know:

  1. Any dwelling unit cannot have more than four cannabis plants grown by the residents of the unit. This does not include dwellings that are also workplaces, such as long-term care or retirement homes. And, these plants can be no more than one meter tall. This activity has been left relatively unregulated, and many provinces are moving to annihilate this rule altogether.

  2. As a landlord, you have the right to monitor and prevent behaviour of tenants that raise risks, such as actions considered fire hazards, any damages to the property, and, especially, anything that interferes with other tenants.

  3. Smoking is banned in common areas of rental properties by the Ontario provincial law. As a landlord, though, you can choose to ban smoking from your properties altogether as part of your lease agreement.

  4. Ensure that ventilation is properly directed, and that any holes are sealed, in order that smoke is not passed from room to room, especially in those of non-smoking tenants. Of course, it is virtually impossible for any building to be impenetrably sealed, so this will be a delicate situation.

  5. The tenants who choose to smoke need to make an effort to avoid emitting significant smoke to other tenants. More than a few complaints about a particular tenant emitting smoke into other units within one year gives the landlord the right to give the smoker a notice of termination for interference with reasonable housing conditions.

  6. Any tenants who do not respect the condition of other units in the building can be taken by the landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board to seek eviction. “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,” chief-executive officer of Landlord BC, David Hutniak, draws up a clear example of how growing marijuana in apartment units could get out of hand.

  7. Landlords can choose to enforce a ban on smoking recreational marijuana on future leases, the same as they can tobacco use. Now, we can most certainly assume that changes will continue to be made to the current rules with time. For now, what can be done is abiding by the legalities as they are stated, educating ourselves and our tenants, and remaining informed about landlords rights, and the rights of our tenants.

What other property management companies and associations in Canada are saying:

CFAA

FRPO

Ontario Landlords Association

Landlord BC

RPM Service