With Canada about to open its legal cannabis market, all manner of citizens are getting ready for it. Renters, in particular, will likely find new wording in their leasing contracts over the next few months. Property managers in Canada, especially in Alberta, are creating new rules for tenants, depending on the proprietor’s wishes. You may not be able to smoke a joint in the privacy of home if some have their way.
Many property owners are adding new rules to ban pot smoking and cultivation on their premises. However, others are finding advantages and opportunities in legalization, which could prove very lucrative indeed. Head of a small property management firm, Sandy Farnsham, says that homeowners in her portfolio do not want tenants smoking or growing marijuana on or in their properties.
As Farnsham explained, the clauses are already in all of her leases and she is making these rules extremely clear to prospective renters well before they sign on the dotted line. She stated unequivocally, “It has just been a matter of, number one; deciding what is okay on our property, and number two; making sure that we communicate that very clearly.”
Farnsham further added, “Landlords and tenants both do not get into relationships to have troubles, and the way that you can reduce troubles is to clearly communicate.” Indeed, proprietors have the full right to decide for themselves what they are or are not willing to allow on their properties. While some restrict cigarettes, pets, and yes, smoking weed, other property managers may happily turn a blind eye.
Chris Souster, an Alberta attorney, sees opportunities for proprietors willing to allow pot smoking and cultivation in their rentals. “I think that there is a huge opportunity for landlords that are 4/20 friendly,” he said. “I think they can likely charge a premium for some of these spaces because those people who are being refused by the majority of landlords might be looking for a building that is 4/20 friendly.”
Souster also explained that courts have already honored clauses in leases that ban smoking, and they have done so on several occasions. He does not believe that cannabis will be any different. However, it remains unclear exactly how proprietors will be able to restrict tenants that use or grow marijuana for medical purposes, which could give rise to potentially major, and expensive, legal issues.
“I do not think it is cut and dried,” Souster explained. “I think if a landlord includes those prohibitions, they may be taking some risk. There may be a human rights challenge, and then it will be up to the human rights tribunal to decide.” If the tribunal rules on the side of tenants with medical conditions, proprietors will not be able to kick them out or stop them from using and growing weed.
According to Souster, proprietors may have a solid case against medical cultivation and use. There are several alternatives to smoking, such as vaping, eating or drinking, but actually growing in a rental property may be the deciding factor. It seems likely that medical patients will need to change their consumption habits and quit smoking to avoid eviction, and they may not be able to grow their own.
The Calgary Residential Rental Association is offering more information on regulating marijuana use and growth in and on rental premises. The organization is able to provide sample leases, and it even has connections to offer legal help to those requiring it. One question is certain: How will legalization work if nobody can use marijuana anywhere, not even in his or her private space? Where would they go?