KENTVILLE, NS - The upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis use could pose a headache for the owners of residential rental properties.
As part of the legislative framework announced by the Province of Nova Scotia on April 3, landlords will be given the authority to amend leases to put reasonable rules in place about recreational cannabis smoking and cultivation. Landlords must provide four months’ notice of this change to the tenant before April 30, 2019.
When the landlord provides this notice, the tenant may choose to terminate the lease. The tenant has one month to give the landlord three months’ notice to terminate.
Kentville-based Kent Fields Estates owns approximately 600 rental units in Kentville, Berwick, Wolfville and Bridgewater. Senior property manager Edith Harrington said the company went smoke-free two years ago in the majority of its buildings, although smoking is allowed on outdoor decks. The rule is not specific to tobacco; it’s for all combustible materials.
Considering that, Harrington doesn’t believe it will be necessary for Kent Fields to open its leases to renegotiation on the issue of smoking marijuana.
“I don’t think we should because we do have the no smoking policy, and that’s on all our leases, no smoking in the building,” Harrington said.
She views Kent Fields as setting a trend in the Valley when it comes to making its rental properties smoke-free. Harrington was surprised to learn at a meeting held by the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia on the topic of legalization of marijuana last July that so many rental properties in the Halifax area have a no non-smoking policy in place.
In units without a non-smoking policy in place, she said, there are issues surrounding smoke-free apartments — landlords can’t issue an eviction if a tenant is caught in contravention. The matter must be taken to the Residential Tenancies Board first.
“It sort of keeps us into the system with the Residential Tenancies constantly, even though we have a policy that says no smoking,” Harrington said.
She said cultivating cannabis presents another issue for Kent Fields, especially when it comes to property insurance. The business plans to say no to allowing tenants to grow weed in apartments, although they haven’t put any rules or regulations in place yet.
Harrington said leaseholders could choose to opt out over this decision. If not being allowed to grow cannabis in apartments poses that much of an issue, she hopes that they will opt out. One issue is that it isn’t mandatory for leaseholders to carry tenant insurance, although Kent Fields asks that they get it.
University weighs in
In a recent Chronicle Herald article by Ian Fairclough, Acadia University spokesman Scott Roberts said the existing no-smoking rules for campus and residences will also apply to cannabis, and growing plants will also not be approved.
“We don’t allow the production of alcohol either,” he said. “People can’t make their beer or wine, so there’s no reason for us to allow people to grow plants either.”
Acadia Students’ Union president Grace Hamilton-Burge said her concerns aren’t so much about the university policies but on access and abuse.
She is concerned that the closest Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet where students can go to legally purchase marijuana will be Lower Sackville, a 45-minute, 75-kilometre drive away.
“Will this perpetuate the black market if there is no outlet nearby?” she said. “I know that there are online sales, but how are we making sure that students are staying safe and not buying from the black market. ... My concern is more around if students choose to smoke or use cannabis, that they’re able to access it safely and are educated on its use.”