Cannabis Legalization: Property Managers, Are You Ready?


There’s just under one week until recreational cannabis becomes a legal product throughout Canada which poses new concerns for property managers, property owners, and tenants alike.  Regardless of which side of the fence you are on regarding the use of cannabis, there are several challenges that will be brought upon the multi-family industry now that growers, smokers, and objectors may be living side-by-side under a common roof.  In addition, it can cost $4,000-$5,000 dollars to treat a unit to remove the smell which is a significant cost to add to a unit turnover. Each province will have jurisdiction over the exact rules and implementation of legal pot, and the majority of which have not yet been able to disclose the exact terms and conditions concerning:

  • Where and when it can be used
  • How much can be grown for personal use
  • What consumption level constitutes intoxication, and
  • What the legal requirements are for landlords and tenants concerning this soon to be a legal drug.

While we wait for governments and regulators to finalize and implement the new rules of engagement, we have compiled a list of best practices that you should review to ensure that you write and enforce rules that will keep you on-side with the law as well as what you should be on the look-out for inside tenants units as well as in common areas that may be hazardous or disruptive to other tenants and the property itself.

  • As with most odors, cannabis has a distinct smell that some people mind and some people don’t.  What can best be characterized as a “skunky” odor, be on the lookout for it when inspecting tenants units as it will be the easiest trigger than there is cannabis on the premises.  While this is not explicitly a problem as they may be using the substance within your designated guidelines, this should trigger you to inspect more thoroughly to ensure there is none being grown inside or on the balcony of a unit.
  • Cannabis is rarely grown out in the open and most users will use closets or “grow tents” to segregate the grow area from the rest of the unit to keep the smell to a minimum. You can still detect these fairly easily by checking if extension cords and power bars are protruding from closets.  You may also be able to detect that the closet seems hotter than other doors and handles which is another trigger that cannabis growth may be present in those closets.
  • Another byproduct of indoor cannabis growth is an increase in humidity which can lead to issues of mold and/or damage to the drywall, plaster, and paint.  If you notice a lot of condensation on windows or feel a noticeable difference in the humidity of a unit that can be cause to take a closer look to investigate whether cannabis is being grown in the unit.
  • During unit inspections, if there is cannabis paraphernalia, ashtrays, and smoking/vaping devices visible in the unit, that is something to take note of.  If surrounding tenants complain about cannabis odor near a tenant you have noted to own such devices, that can be useful evidence when confronting a tenant about disregarding that term in their lease.
  • Ensure that lease documents are updated with terms that explicitly state what is and is not allowed regarding cannabis in your rental properties.  Without a strict legal document outlining usage guidelines, there is nothing to stop a tenant from using and/or growing any product that is otherwise within their legal right to do so.  This should cover not only the interior of a rental unit but also any porch or balcony that is occupied by a tenant.
  • The easiest way to prevent the smell of smoke from disturbing non-smoking tenants is to have strict guidelines that tell tenants and guests where they are able to smoke while on the property.  A designated smoking section is your best bet as it will let smokers know where they can safely light-up and where non-smokers should avoid. Courts have already upheld no smoking clauses regarding cigarettes and the expectation is that cannabis smoke will be treated in the same manner.
  • Install a sub-metering solution if you don’t currently have one.  Growing cannabis requires a tremendous amount of electricity and only having a bulk meter for utilities means you will be paying for all of the extra usages.  
  • If you plan on being “4/20 friendly”, ensure that there is an adequate ventilation system including positive pressure in common hallways to prevent the smells from traveling from one unit into common areas as well as other units.  Even though tenants moving into one of these properties likely knows what to expect, they may still not wish to be bombarded with that odor all day whether or not they actually use the substance.

These rules are hardly written in stone and will likely change over the coming weeks and months and from province to province when the rules and obligations of all parties are clearly spelled out.  There will likely be some additional discourse over the differences between recreational use and its medicinal counterpart and it may leave landlords at the mercy of human rights legislation. In any event, we’re on the verge of entering a new normal and while we can look to several US states that have already legalized the substance for direction, taking the above precautions into consideration should provide landlords some food for thought as we head towards October 17th.

SuiteSpot provides the tools and techniques to perform property and unit inspections and can help you devise a plan for including cannabis-related components into your inspection and property management strategy.  Get in touch with us to see how the SuiteSpot platform will modernize your property operations processes to build insight and strategic plans from your everyday property management activities.

Download the SuiteSpot brochure to learn more about our solution or request a demo.

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