Interview - Should no-smoking rules be integral to rental lease agreements
It’s a no-brainer says property manager Tyler Davis.
Property management firm Vancouver Management Ltd has managed rental, strata and social housing properties in Metro Vancouver for more than 50 years. For some time now they have made no smoking policies a staple of all its lease agreements with rental building tenants – be it those living in market rental or social housing.
To learn more we talked to Vancouver Management property manager Tyler Davis. He believes a 100% no-smoking policy should be integral to any rental lease agreement these days.
Why include a no-smoking policy in all its rental agreements?
It’s a no-brainer. At one time, second-hand smoke complaints were a source of a lot of grief between neighbours living in properties we managed. They ate up huge amounts of our time, and frankly second-hand smoke issues are not easy to resolve. The process required to document, validate and even attempt to fix a smoking problem is cumbersome. The clean-up costs when turning over an apartment where a smoker has resided are just too high, and naturally rental building owners are supportive of any reasonable effort to minimize costs.
We have so many other management priorities when running a building. We decided it was simpler to ban smoking outright, and for a long time now, include no-smoking policies in all agreements for rental properties we manage. This includes prohibiting smoking in both inside units and balconies and patios.
Do you think tenants prefer smoke-free buildings?
I believe so, yes. Smoking traditional cigarettes has trended out in my opinion. Fewer and fewer smoke, and fewer and fewer people tolerate second-hand smoke. We’ve never had any pushback from new tenants renting properties when we tell them no smoking is allowed.
Does the legalization of marijuana concern you?
It concerns tenants more. We insist upon a no-smoking policy so it’s not a problem. And the government is helping in that regard. Once marijuana smoking becomes legal, all buildings with no-smoking policies within leases are grandfathered to include marijuana smoking AND vaping in fact. This means anyone who signed an agreement banning tobacco prior to the new cannabis control legislation coming into effect, is also banned from smoking marijuana or vaping. This change is retroactive to all tenancies entered into before the cannabis control legislation becomes law.
What changes when marijuana becomes legal?
Any agreement entered into after the cannabis control and Licensing Act becomes law must include a prohibition that specifically mentions cannabis or is a broad prohibition which bans the smoking and vaping of all combustible materials.] Property managers need to make sure their lease agreements spell out no-smoking rules clearly. But we’re on top of that. In all our new tenant lease agreements we’ve already changed our agreement to say marijuana smoking and vaping is banned too. We’re also banning the growth of marijuana plants – and the use of other combustibles, like incense. Incense can emit a strong odour too when burned, and it’s just easier to ask people not to use it. Again, we’ve already started using the agreement with new tenants and have experienced no pushback.
As property managers we have a duty to help ensure the quiet enjoyment of the increasing number of people who are living side by side, and second-hand smoke, in whatever form, has so often been a source of contention in the past, we feel it’s better to shut down the potential for complaints before they start.
How about vaping? Have you had any complaints?
No, not yet. But with patio season starting who knows. The emissions from vaporizers can be pretty smelly too! I’m not sure how much we know about the health effects, and I think marijuana smells stronger, but I’ve witnessed the huge plumes of vapour that can come out of those things. So we’ll see. At least we have the power to do something about it if it is a problem?
Are you worried about the rights of tenants who rely on marijuana use for medical purposes?
Not really. There are other ways to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, apart from smoking it, such as edibles. Our no-smoking policy is about protecting the quiet enjoyment of tenants, and not a judgement about anyone’s choice to smoke or use marijuana.
You manage social housing properties. Is smoking more of a problem in social housing situations?
In my 20+ years in property management, I’ve managed a significant number of social housing units. It’s true in social housing tenant turnover is low. Tenants are loathe to give up subsidized housing as it is really hard to secure in the first place. And, under current laws, people living in subsidized housing units who signed rental agreements long ago which allowed smoking, are ‘grandfathered’ or able to continue smoking until they vacate their unit. But each time one of our social housing units frees up, and we assign a new tenant, their lease includes a no-smoking policy. It will take time, but eventually the social housing properties we manage will become smoke-free. To speed up the process in social housing, would require a change to grandfathering rules under the Residential Tenancy Act.
Do tenants respect no smoking rules?
By and large yes. Sure, there are always one or two people in most of our buildings who ignore the rules. But generally, we have very, very few second-hand smoke problems. And when we do, the neighours of the person who smokes end up helping us enforce existing rules!