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Cannabis legalization leads to uncertain times for landlords

The legalization of cannabis has left many landlords wondering what rights their tenants have when it comes to its use in rental properties, Toronto real estate lawyer Sarita Samaroo tells Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine.

Samaroo, principal of SST Law Professional Corporation, writes that when put up for sale, there is a negative connotation associated with a property where recreational pot has been used.

“Often it is thought that marijuana use in a property could result in its devaluation, especially if the amount of pot smoke has been abundant enough to affect the smell of multiple rooms,” she writes.

In the article, she notes that growing cannabis in a rental property could also result in mould damage to the walls and baseboards, and remediation work can prove costly for landlords.

“Unfortunately, those risks are now a landlord's to deal with,” Samaroo writes.

Under the Cannabis Act, a person is allowed to possess four plants that are budding or flowering, she explains, and a tenant in a rental unit has that same right.

Condominium corporations may have a loophole in their rules to prohibit its recreational use inside units and could insist that tenants smoke their marijuana outside, Samaroo writes.

However, she adds that condo rules may be open to interpretation and could be subject to scrutiny should a landlord-tenant dispute arise.

She says landlords of a freehold property or condo must guard against prohibitive clauses in leases that could result in a human rights claim.

“Regardless of what your political beliefs are around the use of cannabis, it’s safe to assume your tenant or their guests will inevitably smoke marijuana in your rental property,” Samaroo writes.

She says it is an uncertain time for landlords and suggests consulting with a lawyer or paralegal before drafting a lease agreement with prohibitive clauses.

“Find out what moves are in accordance with the new Ontario Standard Form of Lease and other associated legislation,” Samaroo writes. “You might not want marijuana smoking on your property but banning a legal substance from your property or trying to evict someone for using one will not end well.”

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