A legal look at the marijuana situation RHB Magazine interviewed Emma Sims and Grant Haddock on the legal ramifications of recreational marijuana as they apply to landlords and rental properties. Emma represents landlords before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board and in Small Claims Court proceedings. She is a registered paralegal with the Law Society of Ontario. Since 2003, she has worked for the law firm Cohen Highley, which acts extensively for residential landlords. Grant acts for residential and commercial landlords, manufactured home community owners, developers, housing co-ops and strata (condo) corporations. Founded in 2001, Haddock & Company is a recognized leader in the housing industry sectors that they serve. RHB: What key legal issues are likely to arise regarding smoking marijuana in rental residences that landlords should be aware of, and what should they do? Emma Sims: It is likely that there will be a spike in residential tenants smoking marijuana in rental units after the Cannabis Act comes into force. This may result in complaints from neighbouring units about the smell of the cannabis smoke. Landlords should investigate any complaints received and, although use of cannabis
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in rental units will not be a crime or a provinical offence, landlords will need to address complaints. This may mean that they will need to speak to tenants requesting, for example, that they smoke near a window, smoke on a balcony, consume cannabis in other ways, so as not to substantially interfere with other tenants’ enjoyment of their rental units. Grant Haddock: Other tenants may complain about the smell and smoke. Get prepared to deal with your community over the issue. Marketability is another concern. Do you want your rental property to be a haven for users such that non-users or persons with children will refuse to consider your property? You also need to consider damage to rental units because of smoke and smell, and the cost to remediate. RHB: What about legal issues regarding growing marijuana in rental units? Emma Sims: The damage that can be caused by growing marijuana could include mold and property damage caused by moisture inside rental units. In addition, if tenants use grow lamps, increased hydro usage and charges may adversely affect landlords where hydro is included in the rent. There may also be security concerns arising from tenants growing marijuana in units. If landlords discover that tenants are growing marijuana in their rental units after the Cannabis
Act comes into force, landlords should inspect the unit to ensure that it is in compliance with the residential use permitted under the lease agreement and applicable building standards. Grant Haddock: I would think that if a tenant sticks to four plants, there’s probably not a lot for the landlord to be concerned about. Water damage and electrical consumption would likely not be problems in most units. The real problem will be policing tenants. How do you enforce the limit on the number of plants allowed to be grown? Get ready to exercise your right to inspect the rental unit. RHB: What should landlords do to prepare before the laws go into effect? Emma Sims: Landlords can ban smoking of cigarettes and/or marijuana in residential leases prior to commencement of the tenancy. Landlords should consider doing this to avoid any smoking in rental units. If the existing lease allows for rules, landlords could enact rules, by giving notice to tenants that the production and smoking of marijuana is prohibited. Grant Haddock: Engage tenants, both users and non-users, to ensure that everyone is on board and aware of expectations, especially around nuisance issues. Properties housing children will be especially thorny problems.
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