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Various laws impact the landlord and tenant relationship in BC. This section provides a brief description of the laws and policies that regulate smoking in apartments and rented homes in BC, including:
In most jurisdictions across Canada, including British Columbia, smoking is banned in all indoor public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars. (The smoking ban in workplaces also applies to apartment units when workers are painting or conducting renovations). While there are no provincial laws that regulate smoking in private residences of multi-unit dwellings, BC enacted legislation to ban smoking in common areas and entrances of apartment buildings and condominiums.
Under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, smoking is banned in certain places to which the public is ordinarily invited or permitted access, including:
- Common areas of apartment buildings, condominiums and dormitories, including elevators, hallways, parking garages, party or entertainment rooms, laundry facilities, lobbies; and
- Within 6 metres (buffer zones) of public entranceways to apartment buildings, open windows and air intakes.
Note: You may live in a community/municipality that has greater restrictions on smoke/vape use. If your community has such a bylaw, it takes precedence over the provincial requirement. Whichever requirement is more restrictive is the requirement you must follow.
Read more about new BC tobacco laws.
Note: This legislation does not apply to individual units or balconies in apartments or condominiums. It specifically avoids any attempt to regulate smoking in private residences.
There are two situations where the ban on smoking does not apply:
- Residents or persons in care of facilities licensed or registered under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, and patients in extended care facilities or private hospitals (refer to Sec 1 and Part 2 of the Hospital Act) will be able to smoke in designated smoking rooms (but staff and visitors will not be able to smoke there);
- Hotel rooms, but not the common areas of hotels (hotels may also designate hotel rooms as smoke-free rooms).
For more information, visit: frequently asked questions.
Landlords are responsible for enforcing the smoking ban in common areas and entrances of apartment buildings.
If the Landlord is not able to enforce the legislation, he or she should contact their local Health Authority, and ask for a representative in the tobacco control area. Tobacco Enforcement Officers through the various health authorities are charged with the day-to-day enforcement of BC tobacco control legislation.
Where municipal bylaws are stricter than provincial legislation, unresolved complaints should be made to the municipal bylaw enforcement department.
Read more about enforcing BC tobacco laws.
Municipal governments have the authority to ban or restrict smoking in public places within their geographic limits and to create smoking bylaws that exceed BC smoke-free Regulations. Many have. With regard to multi-unit dwellings, some municipalities have enacted stronger buffer zone requirements than the province, including Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond and the Capital Regional District. Also, many BC municipalities and health authorities have more stringent restrictions in place for care facilities, and those restrictions would apply. Contact your local municipality to find out more.
It should also be noted that municipalities in BC could pass bylaws regulating smoking in apartment and condominiums, though none have to date. The City of St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador recently adopted new non-smoking rules for its non-profit housing. The rule means that tenants who sign tenancy agreements with the City will have to agree not to smoke inside their units. The rules do not apply to existing tenants, who may continue to smoke in their units until they vacate the premises.
Residential tenancy relationships in BC are governed by the Residential Tenancy Act. The Act does not contain any specific provisions relating to smoking or second-hand smoke. However, the Act does allow a landlord to include a no-smoking clause in all new tenancy agreements to ban smoking in all units, balconies and the entire residential property. It is perfectly legal.
If a Tenancy Agreement does not include a no-smoking clause, tenants are allowed to smoke in their units. However, tenants do not have unfettered rights to smoke. According to Section 28 of the Act, tenants are entitled to quiet enjoyment, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable disturbances. If tenants complain of unreasonable disturbances due to second-hand smoke infiltrating their units, a landlord has a responsibility to take steps to address the problem. (See Tenants right to quiet enjoyment)
While the law does not specifically mention second-hand smoke as grounds for a breach of quiet enjoyment, there is case law finding that if second-hand smoke is causing a significant interference to other tenants, it can be considered grounds for claiming a loss of quiet enjoyment. (See Case Law Summaries)
For more information on understanding rights and responsibilities under the Act, consult the Residential Tenancy Branch.
The Human Rights Code is a BC statute that protects the public against various prohibited forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on a disability. In a housing context, the Human Rights Code contains two principle provisions of interest concerning smoking and no-smoking policies.
These provisions appear in the following Sections of the Human Rights Code:
8 (1) Discrimination in accommodation, service and facility; and
10 (1) Discrimination in tenancy premises
It is possible that a tenant could apply to the Human Rights Tribunal on the basis that the landlord did not take reasonable steps to resolve a problem of second-hand smoke infiltrating the tenant’s unit from a neighbouring unit. A tenant who suffers from a disability that is exacerbated by second-hand smoke, such as asthma or allergies, could take the position that the landlord has a responsibility to limit or ban smoking in order to accommodate the tenant’s disability. To date there have been no human rights cases that have issued a decision on whether sensitivity to second-hand smoke constitutes a disability, although there are numerous BC cases before the Tribunal.
On the flip side, smoking is not identified in the Code as a ground for protection. This issue of smoking as a disability has been considered a number of times over the years, and Canadian courts have consistently ruled --with one exception-- that addiction to nicotine is not a disability. The one exception was a British Columbia Labour Relations Board decision in an employment context. Cominco, a nickel smelter, had banned smoking on the plant site, and while the Board found that the ban discriminated against heavily addicted smokers, it also recognized that the employer’s no-smoking policy was reasonable and was adopted to protect staff from a known hazard. The matter was referred back to the parties to resolve how to accommodate the heavily addicted smokers. Cominco's smoking ban remains in effect today.
It is important to note that this decision applied to an employment situation. In a housing situation, it is highly likely that a no-smoking policy would be found to be justified to protect the health of other tenants.
- CLICK HERE for a report developed by the Non-Smokers' Rights Association examining human rights and no-smoking policies in multi-unit dwellings.