By Andrew Macdonald
The Nova Scotia government of Premier Stephen McNeil is allowing apartment landlords the right to ban weed smoking in their buildings.
There are 40,000 apartment units in HRM, and many leading landlords, including Peter Polley, Louie Lawen and Alex Halef have previously asked tenants to sign leases that they will not smoke cigarettes in their units.
And that same power to ban cigarettes can also be applied to marijuana, when it becomes legal to smoke later this summer.
Government spokesperson Andrew Preeper tells The Macdonald Notebook that the government has listened to apartment landlords by giving them power to ban weed smoking in their properties.
“Landlords have raised the issue about cannabis use in rental spaces and representatives from government have met with the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia on this topic,” Preeper tells The Macdonald Notebook in an email.
“This is one of the many issues that arise from the legalization of cannabis,” he adds.
The Residential Tenancies Act allows landlords to implement specific rules where landlords feel that tenants are interfering with the enjoyment of other tenants or damaging their property, he says.
“Landlords have been able to identify smoke-free buildings which prevent tenants from smoking in apartments, and also restrict pets. This is under Section 9A of the act, dealing with reasonable rules”, says Preeper.
Prominent landlord Alex Halef, who last year opened the 18-storey apartment high-rise Point North on Robie Street, says there is no difference between smoking cigarettes and weed.
“My buildings are non-smoking anyway — and that’s smoking of any kind. I don’t distinguish between cigars, cigarettes, weed or even pipes and such,” Halef tells The Macdonald Notebook. “No smoking means no smoking.”
Prominent Halifax residential landlord Peter Polley bans cigarette smoking in his apartments, which includes Mont Blanc in the city’s north end.
I asked him about weed smoking, and whether he would ban that in his apartment buildings.
“The whole weed in apartments is of grave concern to the apartment industry due to the putrid smell of smoked marijuana affecting the quiet enjoyment and health of other residents,” Polley previously told The Macdonald Notebook.
“IPOANS coordinated a session on it a few months ago and it was agreed by all involved that the right to smoke weed will not usurp a landlord’s right to make rules for their properties,” says Polley.
Heading the file at IPOANS is Kevin Russell, whose day job is as property manager for a large landlord.
The Saskatchewan government is also giving landlords the right to ban cannabis smoking. It recently ensured apartment owners in that province can regulate the matter, providing teeth to ban smoking in apartments.
IPOANS made its position known to the McNeil government during public consultations.
“The market will decide. There are some landlords that will allow marijuana smoking in their buildings. That is their choice,” says Russell. “But more importantly, tenants should have a choice.”
He said the smell of marijuana could affect neighbours, including seniors and those with young children.
That is compounded by the fact the majority of rentals in Halifax are older apartment stock, where fresh air circulation only comes from opening windows, and that will blow the smoke into other units.
“We have to remember rental stock in Nova Scotia, 60 to 80 per cent of it is stock that was built in 1960s to 1990s, and they rely on natural ventilation, meaning you open a window to get the air flow going in the apartment,” says Russell.
“Second hand smoke is not benign. It drifts.”
One possible weakness with the Nova Scotia legislation is that for now it appears it is not banning tenants from growing or cultivating weed in their apartments.
He says New Brunswick’s government is giving landlords in that province the ability to ban cultivation of marijuana.
Without legislation giving landlords the ability to ban smoking of joints, Russell fears a tenant could make a Charter of Rights case to continue smoking.
Meanwhile this week Don Mills’ Atlantic polling company, Corporate Research & Associates, came out with a poll which shows the majority of Nova Scotians favour the right of apartment landlords to ban weed smoking.
“Overall, seven in 10 Atlantic Canadians support landlords having the right to alter current lease agreements to ban the smoking of marijuana in their buildings, once legalized,” said the prominent polling entity.
“Support for landlords having the right to alter current lease agreements is consistent across Atlantic Canada. Across the population, levels of support in this regard are elevated among residents with higher household incomes, and those with higher levels of education,” found the poll.
“Currently, lease agreements do not contain language concerning marijuana due to its current illegal status,” noted the pollster.
“Seventy-two per cent of Atlantic Canadians support landlords having the right to alter current lease agreements to ban the smoking of marijuana, with just over four in 10 (44 per cent) residents expressing complete support in this regard,” it reports.
“ Meanwhile, one-quarter (23 per cent) of residents oppose landlords having the right to alter current lease agreements for this reason”.
“Across Atlantic Canada, a notable majority of residents…support landlords having the right to alter current lease agreements to ban the smoking of marijuana in their buildings, once legalized,” reports Corporate Research & Associates.
“There has been considerable debate recently regarding the rights of landlords relative to the smoking of marijuana in their buildings,” said Don Mills, in a news statement.
The poll is based on a telephone sample of 1,501 adult Atlantic Canadians, conducted from February 1 to 28, 2018, with overall results accurate to within ± 2.5 percentage points, 95 out of 100 times.