marijuana joint

November 27th, 2018

Can I legally prohibit tenants from using cannabis?

As of October 17th, 2018, Cannabis became legal in Canada to much stoner fanfare. At the same time, mounting concern from landlords across the country came to a peak, many of which expressed their intentions to protect their properties from smoke damage and other hazards associated with the cannabis use.

One of the biggest concerns for both tenants and landlords was how the consumption of legalized pot will work in or around rental units.

Much of the onus comes down to provincial legislation.

Provincial rules

Some provinces decided to lay down the hammer, while others chose to let landlords try to figure things out for themselves. Quebec, for example, has some of the strictest laws in the country, allowing landlords to ban cannabis use on their properties regardless of lease duration.

In Ontario, things have been less black and white. The provincial government has decided not to change rental laws to address cannabis directly. It does mention, however, that renters will be able to smoke in their homes depending on their “building’s rules or [their] lease agreement.”

Confusing legislation

There are several questions many Canadians want answered, namely, if landlords can legally ban their tenants from smoking cannabis inside their rental units.

Much like tobacco smoking or pet ownership, tenants cannot be automatically evicted for smoking inside their units. If tobacco smoking is prohibited on the signed and written lease, then landlords are technically able to show that their tenant broke the lease. However, there is no legislative backing for the smoking prohibition in the Residential Tenancies Act

To makes things even more confusing, Ontario acknowledges that anyone of legal age (19+) is able to smoke in private residential buildings, including on porches and balconies. Adults are also allowed to smoke anywhere tobacco or e-cigarettes are legally consumed, including on the sidewalks and in parks.

Ontario notes that condo bylaws and lease agreements are allowed to include further restrictions on cannabis use in buildings, denoting where residents can smoke on the premises, if at all.

What landlords can do

One way to protect your building and non-smoking residents from the odour, damage and potential health risks that can occur via marijuana smoke is to work limitations into new leases and attempt to get current residents to agree (hopefully in writing) to smoking cannabis outside, just as they would tobacco in a smoke-free building.

Even with the ‘no smoking’ clause in the lease, the restriction technically has no legal basis according to Geordie Dent, executive director of the Toronto-area Federation of Metro Tenants Association.

Because Ontario has not placed a strict ban in its Cannabis Act, or specifically addressed marijuana use in rental apartments, landlords cannot enact a "blanket ban" on the activities of tenants without reason.

If someone has an allergy or asthma condition in your property, and cannabis smoke (or pets, or noxious scents) poses a risk to a neighbour's reasonable enjoyment and/or health inside the shared property, these are valid reasons to ban smoking within the building. You may wish to get a neighbour's medical needs in writing to back up your reasoning.

However, tenants could also have a medical reason to use the now legal (and often medical) product. This means that banning the substance for tenants using it for medical purposes could land a landlord in court should the tenant cite discrimination based on provincial human rights laws.


So yes, the newly legal drug poses some confusing problems for both tenants and landlords.

The big takeaway for landlords is to continue careful screening of new tenants. Ask prospective tenants if they smoke and maintain that your building is smoke-free on the lease.

You may wish to include a provision that declares a cleaning fee for smoke damaged property, and indicate that there are allergies in the building if they are present.

Every tenant has the right to reasonably enjoy their property in a clean and healthy environment, free from excessuve noise after certain hours and free from bothersome, damaging odours whenever possible.