Second-hand smoke plaguing landlords

A woman in North Bay who is sensitive to second-hand smoke is one step away from an oxygen tank and is on the verge of moving, a situation landlords are dealing with more of late.

“This is a big problem for Ontario landlords and we have seen more posts from our members regarding this issue over the past year,” said Bill Blake, a senior member of the Ontario Landlord Association and the Alberta Landlord Association.

“The big problem is in multi-unit buildings.If a tenant smokes in a multi-unit building, it can be a big headache for the landlord.”

His comments come in response to a recent case out of North Bay where a woman named Yvette Giroux's health is deteriorating due to tenants who smoke in her building. Giroux, who is on a fixed-income, has little recourse and nor does the landlord in most cases.

According to a 2011 survey by the Ontario Smoke-Free Housing Coalition, approximately one in three people said they were involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke through walls, ventilation or cracks in apartment buildings and other shared housing.

According to an article from the CBC, the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic acknowledged that the number of cases are going up and tenants taking action against landlords are also increasing among those who have serious, and defined, health risks.

The Landlord and Tenant Board has been fielding an increasing number of complaints but there is little action that can be taken against landlords. Still, the issue could end up costing landlords down the line, says Blake.

“The health issues of smoking and second-hand smoke have become well known; most tenants don't want to be in a property where they can smell smoke,” he said. “It's a very complicated and long process to try to evict a tenant who smokes and bothers other tenants.

“Many non-smoking tenants are unaware of the challenges Ontario residential landlords face in evicting a tenant who smokes. They think it should be easy, but it's not.”

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