Canadian Underwriter

What happens if a condo client’s marijuana use offends the neighbours?

January 28, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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With the legalization of recreational cannabis, what happens when there is a dispute between neighbours in a condominium and how does a condo corporation or board handle it?

A lot of condominium corporations have passed rules around odours, says Armand Conant, a member of the Canadian Condominium Institute (Toronto)’s board of directors and a lawyer with Shibley Righton LLP’s condominium law group. “With cannabis, since it’s legal, it’s treated like any other form of odour — cooking smells, tobacco, it doesn’t matter. It’s just that it’s more pungent,” Conant said during a recent Ontario legislative committee hearing.

The committee’s deliberations may impinge on condo insurance policies, both in connection with liability (e.g. if condo owners sue over the odours) or in terms of the condo unit contents to be insured (e.g. ensuring proper ventilation to mitigate complaints about odour).

“The thing with cannabis is that, since in some of the buildings it tends to be the older demographics, [opposition to the odour is] more embedded: ‘This is wrong. We shouldn’t be smelling this.’ You get that a little bit,” Conant told the Standing Committee on Justice Policy Jan. 20 during a public hearing, in Brampton, on Bill 159. The Rebuilding Consumer Confidence Act, tabled in December by Government and Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson. The omnibus bill would make several changes to provincial condominium law.

During the hearing, Conant was asked by Natalia Kusendova, MPP for Mississauga Centre, about the legalization of recreational cannabis, the problem of odours in condominiums, and whether he has any anecdotal feedback as to how the government can better regulate or legislate that.

Some condominium boards try to prohibit cannabis cultivation in condos, said Conant. “You’re allowed the four plants by the federal government, but they have an odour stronger than others. And when you’re trying to make edible products, that can cause a lot of odours.”

So how do condominium boards deal with a cannabis odour emanating from one unit into others or into the common areas?

“We deal with that resident just like anybody else, meaning, ‘You can’t interfere with somebody next door to you or in the hallway.’ What does that mean? We can come after you to say, ‘Okay, what other ventilation can you do? Where are your fans? You can’t open up your balcony on the 48th floor because it affects the air pressure in the hallways, but what can you do?’”

Bill 159 was referred to committee Dec. 11. The legislature took the rare step of discharging an order for second reading. So instead of having an all-party debate (which usually happens during second reading) the bill went directly to committee.

Bill 159 is an omnibus piece of legislation that proposes changes to the Condominium Act, Condominium Management Services Act, Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, New Home Construction Licensing Act, Technical Standards and Safety Act, Consumer Protection Act, New Home Construction Licensing Act, Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act and Ticket Sales Act.

With Bill 159, the province says it wants to improve condo living and provide better protection for financial investments

“The Condominium Act lacks clear, plain-language information to help first-time buyers and condo residents understand condo life when buying and living in a condo,” the province states on its website. “In early 2020, we will consult on regulatory changes under the act to help improve condo living and protect your financial investment — changes that could come into effect starting in summer 2020.”

That could include requiring the Condominium Authority of Ontario to develop a condo guide for buyers and requiring developers to provide it at the point of purchase.

During the hearing Jan. 20, Conant was asked by MPPs about amendments to provincial legislation, made in 2015 that have yet to take effect.

One of those amendments is a prohibition in condos of any a nuisance, annoyance or disruption in a common area or unit.

The Canadian Condominium Institute is looking for clarity around what an annoyance or disruption is.


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8 Comments » for What happens if a condo client’s marijuana use offends the neighbours?
  1. Roger Tickner says:

    Interesting that Occupational Health and Safety Act is not a key consideration despite every condo being a workplace and compliance a major challenge?

  2. Susan Konopaki says:

    While cannabis use is now legal in Canada, we need to remember that for certain individuals, such as elite athletes, cannabinoids are a banned substance as declared by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Second hand smoke and/or accidental ingestion can be detrimental for these individuals and as such, should be taken into consideration when implementing bylaws and laws in general surrounding this topic.

  3. London says:

    My wife and I moved into our present condo about 5 years ago. About six months ago we began to get marijuana smoke coming into our unit, from the unit directly below us. When this happens both my wife and I suffer from major annoying headaches. We complained to our Board Of Management, and were informed that they are aware of the origin of the smoke (the unit directly below ours) and that they are working on the matter. Most recently we have been forced to leave our condo and seek temporary refuge (for weeks at a time) with my wife’s son. And we continue to get sick whenever our ‘neighbour’ decides to ‘exercise his right’. Please help us.

  4. Cindy Hampson says:

    The legalization of marijuana has just plain crates a lot of issues for others. People smoking it in public parks with children around, walking on a trail behind someone smoking it. I am in a motel room unable to find an apartment in my home town and the neighbors to me smoke it all day and act as though I am the problem for not wanting pot coming in to my room all the time. It is a compromise to my health having it come on to my room as well as the stress of dealing with it everyday. They need to reverse the legalization of it period.

  5. Hakim says:

    If they have the right to smoke marijuana freely and don’t even bother causing to others we non marijuana Smokers have rights also enjoy odour free clean air don’t we?

  6. Doug Page says:

    I live in a condo town home. New neighbors moved in recently and a few of them and their friends smoke marijuana everyday. I now find I cannot have my windows open to have fresh air come in without the over heavy smell of marijuana flowing through my open windows. I checked with my Condo Board and have yet to receive a reply of what if anything can be done. I understand marijuana smokers have their right to smoke, however what about my rights if any to clean air?

  7. Hill Mui says:

    My neighbor moved in last month to the next door unit. They smoke marijuana everyday. That’s made us start have headache and irritating throat. Where is my right to enjoy the fresh air and my private space. I totally support freedom, but under the condition that doesn’t affecting others. The legislation need to re-think about that and protect the right on both sides

    • Louise says:

      This was clearly not well thought through by those passing these laws. We’re in a condo and are dealing with an out of control minor who’s making us all sick with his smoking. Mother has no control. So frustrating and we’ll probably have to sell as neither my wife or I can live I places with secondhand smoke. It does not seem right. We have a useless Board who have the attitude that they can’t do anything. They are against introducing a smoke free policy so that’s infuriating.

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