Smoke-Free Rentals: Who has legal rights?

Second hand smoke can be a problem for those living in multi-unit dwellings. It can waft from one unit to another through ducts, doorways and balconies. Most provinces and territories have smoke-free laws that ban smoking at work and public places, but there is no law banning smoking in private residences.

A landlord has the legal right to include a no-smoking clause in your rental agreement. The landlord can ban smoking in the whole building, individual units, common areas and even balconies. Smoking is not considered a legal human right in any province. Apartments in your building could legally be smoke-free rentals.

If a smoke-free clause has not been included in your rental agreement, but other tenants are complaining of second hand smoke, a landlord is still legally permitted to do whatever is necessary to reasonably deal with the issue. Most provincial tenancy laws state that a tenant is entitled to “quiet or peaceful enjoyment” of their home and/or it should be “fit for human habitation.” They recognize that tenants have the legal right to live free from unreasonable disturbances. An official tribunal could determine that second hand smoke entering another residence to be an unreasonable disturbance.

Second hand smoke could violate “peaceful enjoyment” of one’s home and in many cases, that is enough to legally do something about it. Landlords can ask the smokers to stop, repair or renovate the building to minimize the transfer of second hand smoke.

Smoke-Free Housing Canada gives comprehensive advice for both landlords and tenants on the issue. They also give tips on what to do if you find smoke entering your home. They recommend you check if smoking is already prohibited in the common areas within your building, and make a request to your landlord to seal cracks that may be allowing smoke to come in.

It’s always a smart idea to check your rights as tenants concerning smoking on the property when renting and knowing which buildings have smoke-free rentals.

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