A new ruling could affect how landlords deal with smokers across Saskatchewan.
The Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT), a provincial body, ruled renters have the right to be protected from second-hand smoke in their homes.
The ruling, made by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, can apply to any housing authorities or landlords in the province.
It first came down in March 2017, but wasn’t made official until the appeal was dismissed last month.
Three tenants had brought forward concerns about their health and well-being from living in apartments next-door to smokers. All were staying at properties managed by the Regina Housing Authority (RHA), which provides low income housing options.
“Smoke came through the electrical outlets. I put plastic all over them, we sealed up any vents between the two apartments,” said Jeannie Labelle-Potvin, one of the complainants.
“I was putting myself into an environment where I’m faced with a known carcinogenic toxin. My fear of dying was huge.”
She was often unable to breathe and developed abscesses on her legs due to the toxins in the carpet.
Labelle-Potvin described spending some nights in her car because she couldn’t sleep in her home. She said her grandchildren could no longer visit because they couldn’t handle the smoke.
Chase Gensir, a former University of Regina student, was also a complainant in the case.
The Winnipeg man said instead of staying in his Sask. apartment, he would spend up to a week at his parents home in Manitoba to avoid the smoke.
“The landlord was not doing very much to be proactive in terms of putting steps in place to deal with that issue with the other tenant,” he said.
Gensir added he hopes the ruling will give a voice to those who are fearful to speak up because they may get evicted.
All the people named in the lawsuit have since moved out of RHA-managed properties.
Carly Romanow, the lawyer who represented them hopes the ruling will change conversations between landlords and their tenants throughout the province.
She said there are different solutions for different properties, including agreements on designated smoking areas or acceptable times of day to light a cigarette.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity to be able to make this flexible, I don’t think this is an impossible thing to ask,” she said.
“This wasn’t just ‘I didn’t like the smell.’ This was really affecting their health and their well-being.”
The Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan confirmed they received about 10 complaints within the past year over second-hand smoke causing health issues for people.
The ORT has ordered the RHA to compensate tenants two-thirds of their monthly rent for the period between when they notified the landlord of their concerns and when they moved out.