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What to do if Your Tenant Smokes

12 May 2013

Just a few days ago we talked about how smoking in your home can decrease its value. But what do you do if it’s your tenant that’s smoking in your property? You definitely don’t want to lose resale value, which you will if they’re smoking in the home. But can you give them a verbal warning, or even evict them if they refuse to stop smoking in the home?

Unfortunately, aside from repeatedly asking them to stop smoking inside, and withdrawing whatever privileges and features you can that you’re currently providing, there is very little you can do if a tenant is smoking inside a property.

In Ontario at least, there has never been a successful case of a landlord trying to evict a tenant based strictly on the grounds that they were smoking inside the unit – even if the tenant doing so breaks a clause or a promise in the lease. The reason for it is simple. Tell people that they have to stop smoking inside their own home (even if it’s not technically their “own” home,) and it sets out a slippery slope for other offensive odours and potential health hazards.

For example, if it’s the smell that the landlord is most concerned about, what other smells may in the future be deemed “unacceptable” and “cause for eviction”? Cooking fish or curry? Bringing a certain perfume into the home? These latter seem ridiculous, even though pretty much everyone can agree that the smell of smoke is horrid.

Aside from the smell, everyone can also agree that smoking is a health hazard, not only to the smoker but to everyone around them. This seems like a perfectly viable and logical argument, but again, there are always going to be other potential “health hazards” that could be next on this slippery slope of telling people how to live their lives when inside their home.

For example, do you tell tenants in an apartment building that they can no longer drive their cars because the pollution bothers those that are walking in and out of the building. Or do you prevent anyone from eating peanut products inside their home because the dust could cross-contaminate or cause problems in the garbage area of the building?

Simply put, for the time being anyway, there’s not much you can do if a tenant is smoking inside of their rental unit. Just like most other things in life, this is just one of those risks that each of us takes, whether we’re living in a community building with many other people, or just trying to make the best investment possible.

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