Can I be prohibited from smoking in a rented property?
In general, landlords are going to want to keep their property clean and free of damage, including smoke damage. Just like we looked at Ontario law surrounding pets in rentals, today, we'll go over no-smoking rules on your lease.
There are definitely scenarios where no-smoking clauses are valid and enforceable, but there are also some gaps in landlord-tenant law that we'll discuss below.
Can landlords refuse to rent to me?
On most rental applications, you’ll be asked several questions about yourself. Your landlord will want to know where you work, if you have pets or children, if you need parking, and yes, if you smoke.
As the rental application comes before the lease, which is legally binding, landlords are allowed to pick their ideal candidate based on what they've disclosed on that sheet of paper. If your landlord doesn’t want a smoker anywhere near their property, they have a right to choose someone else. Of course, you may not wish to disclose your smoking status if you’re in serious need of housing.
Even if you sign a lease that has a no-smoking clause in it, you cannot be evicted for breaking this clause. You can, however, be evicted for disrespecting your neighbours and/or the property.
Moreover, tenants living in a multi-unit building should mind their neighbour’s health and wellness by smoking outside, away from entrances. It almost goes without saying in 2019.
Cigarette smoke, both first- and second-hand, contains harmful chemicals that could interfere with your neighbour’s reasonable enjoyment of their unit. Interfering with someone else's reasonable enjoyment of their own rental is one reason landlords can use to begin the eviction process.
What does the law say?
The Residential Tenancies Act stipulates that landlords can indeed include a no-smoking clause in any lease, according to The Star. The landlord can also implement a no-smoking policy in the entire building. However, if any smoking tenants lived in the building before any such policies were put in place, they don’t have to stop smoking for as long as they live there.
If a new tenant starts smoking in the building, they cannot be evicted based on that fact alone. The landlord must prove to the board that the smoke is damaging to the unit, or is negatively affecting neighbouring units. Proper notice must be given to the smoking tenant before taking the case to the Landlord and Tenant Board. This notice allows the tenant to correct the behaviour within a set time frame.
If property damages can be proven during the eviction process, the tenant can be ordered to pay total repair costs.
Make yourself an attractive renter
If you’re a smoker who needs a rental, it’s important that you make yourself the most attractive candidate to your prospective landlord. This means having previous landlord references that prove you are respectful of the property and of your neighbours, perhaps only smoking outside and disposing of your butts in proper receptacles.
As you know, landlords will be interested in selecting someone who shows the most financial security as well. Having a great credit score, proof of renters insurance and first and last month's rent ready on the spot will make you seem like a dependable renter to the landlord.
You cannot be kicked out of your unit, even in a non-smoking building with a no-smoking clause in the lease, just for smoking.
You can be evicted from your unit if you fail to take your landlord and your neighbour’s reasonable enjoyment of the property into account. If you are making any smoke in or around your unit, and it interferes with someone else – their allergies, for example – and this can be proven, your landlord can take the case to the Landlord and Tenant Board for remedy if you do not stop smoking in or around the premises.