Four out of five Ontarians living in apartments, condominiums or housing co-ops want to live in a smoke-free building.
There are over 70 known smoke-free community and social housing buildings in Ontario and over 600 known multi-unit apartment buildings, condos and co-ops that already working on becoming smoke-free. 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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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 home is worth $750,000 the amount of money lost due to smoking can be up $217,500!
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.
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.