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Tenant Smoking Issues

I got a tenant question yesterday about an important issue. Smoking in apartments is a problem for both landlords and tenants alike. The situation gets worse when tenants smoke pot. The reek of marijuana smoke hangs in the halls.

"When I moved in the landlord told me no one smoked here. Now that I’ve moved in the people downstairs smoke and it comes up the vents. My roommate has asthma and it smells so bad. I looked and it’s not in my lease though. I talked to the landlord and he has talked to the people downstairs but they don’t smoke. I live in Calgary, Alberta. There is a smoking bylaw here but it doesn’t include on ones own home. What do I do????"

Smokers Rights

A smoker has the right to smoke in their apartment. In Ontario there have been no successful cases that evict a tenant for smoking, even when non smoking is in the lease.

Non-Smokers Rights

Non-smokers have the right to not smoke in their place. Every resident should have the right to not be invaded by smoke and fish, curry, cabbage and other offensive smells. Even cleaning products can be a problem! One landlord I know had to go to hospital when her tenants used Lysol to clean their place. She’s highly allergic to it.

Air Quality Issues in Multi-Res

When most rental buildings were built, the population of those buildings was pretty uniform. Smoking was allowed everywhere. The cultural diversity was minimal. Vents from each apartment join on each floor then vent to a central stack on the roof. Depending on the size of the high rise there may be fans on the roof to help this process. When it’s windy or the fans don’t work properly the air can blow back into each apartment after combining. This doesn’t happen all the time. The hallways are not vented at all so any rotten smell lingers.

When they built these buildings no one gave it a thought.

New buildings have pressurized hallways and stairwells. Air is pushed into the common areas and air flows from common areas into the apartment. This keeps any revolting smells people make in their apartment.

Air Quality Issues in Houses

Houses with forced air furnaces have vents that efficiently distribute any smell from second suites throughout the house. I once had tenants who smoked pot in my own house. There’s nothing more thrilling than to come home to the smell of marijuana after a long day’s work then having to go talk to your completely stoned tenant.

Smokers Don’t Smell Their Own Stink!

People who smoke can’t smell that they stink. They can’t smell it on themselves or while they are smoking it. This is true of both marijuana and tobacco. This is why when you aren’t home they think they can have a smoke under their stove hood or bath fan and no one can smell it. They are wrong. When it’s 40 below outside it’s no fun to smoke in the cold when your landlord or fellow tenants aren’t even home. Surely no one will notice!

The Law

The smoker has the right to smoke. You have the right to not smoke. Those rights are equal. The government is not going to start evicting people because they smoke any time soon even if non-smoking is part of the lease. Why? It’s a slippery slope from cigarette stink to other offensive odours. They just don’t want to go there! Then you have the problem of where are all the smokers going to live? They can’t all be kicked out of their buildings and live on the street!

What Landlords Think About Smokers

We’d rather not have them. Smokers ruin paint, stink up the halls and the odd time cause fires. It we have a choice between a smoker and a non smoker we’ll go with the non-smoker. We can’t do a damn thing about smoking in our buildings so we just leave it alone. Pot smoking is the same. I’ve actually personally knocked on doors and told people to smoke their joint on the balcony and not stink up the halls. I’ve never enjoyed explaining to the complaining residents what “that horrible smell is”.

What Should I Do?

My advice is to find an apartment in a house where the owner lives. This means you’ll have to get along with your landlord. These landlords are not professionals as a general rule so you’ll have a much more informal relationship. It’s a pretty fair bet that your landlord won’t start smoking. If you rent in a house with other tenants and they don’t smoke when they move the new people might and then you have to move again. Your landlord can do nothing except talk to penalize the smokers.

The other option is to rent in a new building that has air quality measures installed. This will obviously cost more.

Those are my helpful hints for people trying to avoid smoke. Landlords cannot kick out smokers even if they signed a lease in Ontario anyways.

Happy Non Smoking!

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