Smoke-free Apartments, Condos and Co-ops
Four out of five Ontarians living in apartments, condominiums or housing co-ops want to live in a smoke-free building.
There are 70+ known smoke-free community and social housing communities in Ontario, as well as a growing number of condominiums and co-ops. If more people ask for smoke-free housing, more smoke-free options will become available. For more information on existing smoke-free buildings visit Smoke-Free Housing Ontario.
What are the laws for second-hand smoke in multi-unit buildings like apartments and condos?
The Smoke Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking in common areas of multi-unit buildings (apartments, condos, and co-ops) such as: laundry rooms, stairwells, lobby areas and elevators, however there is no law in Ontario that prohibits smoking in private residences. If you live in an apartment, condominium, townhouse or semi-detached home, you may be exposed to second-hand smoke from another unit in your building. Although there is no law to stop smoking in private units, it is legal for landlords, condo/co-op members or property owners to make their buildings 100% smoke-free.
The City of Toronto Bylaw (Municipal Code Chapter 709, Smoking) prohibits smoking within nine metres (30 feet) of an entrance or exit of any building that is used by the public. The bylaw applies to multi-unit residential buildings (apartments, condos, co-ops) that have an open/unlocked door, an open/unlocked lobby area, and/or a store, business or community space that makes the building accessible to employees and the public. Bylaw signage (PDF) is available and free to download.
How does second-hand smoke travel from one unit to another?
No home is airtight and second-hand smoke travels anywhere and everywhere it can; through open windows or doors, including from a neighbour’s patio or balcony, through electrical outlets, duct work, cable or phone jacks, water or gas pipes and ceiling light fixtures and through any cracks or gaps in floors, walls or ceilings. Some multi-unit buildings share heating and ventilation systems that actually force the tobacco smoke from one unit into another.
I am being exposed to second-hand smoke from another unit. What can I do?
You may be able to work with your landlord and/or the condo or co-op board members and other residents to create a no-smoking policy for your building. It may take time for your building to become 100% smoke-free.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Keep a record of the dates and times that you are aware of smoke in your unit, as well as your efforts to solve the problem.
- Get a letter from your Family Doctor describing how the second-hand smoke is affecting your health and/or the health of your family.
- If you know where the smoke is coming from and you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your neighbour about the drifting smoke and try to work out a solution. Your neighbour may not be aware that the smoke is a problem for you in your unit.
- Talk to your landlord or co-op/condo board representatives and other neighbours and seek their support. You are likely not the only person being affected by unwanted smoke.
- Contact your tenant association, co-op or condominium board to inform them about the issue or to make a formal complaint. They are likely to have the resources to educate and inform tenants, organize tenants and lobby for tenants’ rights. The more they are aware of second-hand smoke as an issue, the better prepared they’ll be to address the problem. Consider starting a petition that can be presented to the landlord to request a no-smoking policy. For more information on how to create a no-smoking policy in your building, visit Smoke-free Housing Ontario.
- Contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 to make a complaint and a Tobacco Enforcement Officer will follow -up to make sure no laws are being broken.
- If you are unable to find a solution to the problem and your health and/or the health of your family is being affected you may need to move out. Visit Smoke-Free Housing Ontario to find out more about moving without a financial penalty for breaking your lease and also for smoke-free buildings in the province of Ontario. You may need to contact The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) or a community legal clinic to address the matter.
You can also arrange for a public health nurse to walk you through some of your options by calling 416-338-7600. Whether you are a landlord, a condo owner, property manager, tenant or housing co-op member we can provide you with information on the major financial and health benefits of smoke-free buildings.
I am being exposed to second-hand smoke. Do I have legal rights?
If there are problems such as damaged walls, ceilings or floors or a ventilation system that is not working properly which permits smoke to enter your unit, your landlord should make the required repairs.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment (or reasonable enjoyment) of their home. This includes the right to be free from being disturbed by other tenants. While the Act does not mention second-hand smoke, you may be able to prove that the smoke entering your unit is harming your health and well-being, and therefore the loss of reasonable enjoyment of your home.
Canadian case law supports that no-smoking policies are fair. Residents with health conditions made worse by being exposed to second-hand smoke have started to cite that they were discriminated against by their housing providers and corporations. Recently, tenants who were exposed to second-hand smoke won cases in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board and Ontario Human Rights Court.
For more information on your rights, visit Smoke Free Housing Ontario. If you need a legal opinion, consult your local community legal clinic or contact The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).
I am a landlord. What are my responsibilities? Is it possible to make my building smoke-free?
Landlords in Ontario have the right to ban smoking in all or part of a building, including indoor units and outdoor patios and balconies. While they cannot change current tenancy agreements, landlords can include a non-smoking clause in new agreements. This means that current tenants are able to continue smoking in their units as they signed a previous tenancy agreement. When those tenants move out and new ones move in, the units can then become smoke-free under the new tenancy agreement.
Landlords in rental properties must act on all reasonable complaints from tenants. If there is proof that a landlord was aware of a problem and failed to take steps to address it there may be grounds for breach of reasonable enjoyment. The landlord should make repairs or changes to the building such as sealing cracks, weather stripping doors, and upgrading ventilation systems.
A study of Ontario homes showed that smoking in the home can lessen its value by up to 29%. This means that if the average home is $369,000, the amount of money lost due to smoking can be up $107,000!
As a landlord you may want to consider making part or all of the building smoke-free. No-smoking policies are legal and enforceable, and most future tenants want to live in a smoke-free home. For more information on how to make your building smoke-free go to Smoke-Free Housing Ontario’s page for landlords.
What about smokers? Are no-smoking policies discriminatory?
There is no such thing as a right to smoke; there is a freedom to smoke but not a right as preserved in Canadian law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Human Rights Code.
A no-smoking policy is not a no-smoker policy. A person that smokes cannot be refused tenancy or evicted because of being a person that smokes. A no-smoking policy generally means that tenants must smoke outside of the building or off the property; this depends on the details of the buildings policy.
No-smoking policies are normally well supported by the majority of tenants and if everyone respects the policy there should be no issues. If your building wants to put a no-smoking policy in place, try to make sure that people who smoke and people who don’t smoke are included in the meetings or committees.
If you smoke and would like to quit, we can help. For more information go to our quitting page.