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Cannabis Reform Bill and Implications for Tenancies

March 6th 2020

The Cannabis Referendum to be held with the General Election on 17th October this year. This is an important issue both medically and ethically, however we haven’t seen much reported about the implications for landlords.

This may be something you already have views on, and are sure of how you will vote.

Currently most of our rental properties have No Smoking rules applied in the additional terms. When use of vaping devices became more commonly used recently we amended the terms to include vaping prohibited as well as smoking, in line with owners requirements. This may be smoking/vaping outside only, or no smoking/vaping anywhere on the property, as shown in our current tenancy terms below:

Smoking and illegal substances: The Tenant(s), Occupants and visitors must not smoke inside the dwelling. The Tenant(s) won't do anything unlawful on the Property, including consuming, selling or producing any illegal substances. No illegal substances may be on the premises at any time. Any cigarette butts must be disposed of safely and must not be left in gardens or elsewhere on the Property. Where a property is stated on the tenancy agreement as completely non-smoking, smoking must not occur anywhere on the Property, inside or out, or on shared areas such as driveways, by tenants, occupants or visitors.

If cannabis becomes a legal product, it may be consumed by smoking, inhaling, eating in a food product, applying to skin through lotion, spray, oil or cream, or by placing a few drops under the tongue. As a tenant could rightly then argue that the product isn’t illegal, and isn’t necessarily being smoked, the current clause shown above would not be sufficient to limit or prevent cannabis use at your rental home.

We consider it an important consideration when voting on this issue to think about what you are comfortable allowing tenants to do and partake of while living in your property.

  • Some points to remember:
  • 1. Legalisation won’t prevent criminal elements from continuing to operate a profitable business

  • 2. Other countries that have introduced this type of legislation (such as Canada) have seen an increase in overall use of cannabis, with current users buying through their usual suppliers, and new users, who are more comfortable with the legal status, purchasing at approved stores.

What is the Ruby Housing stance on this?

We have always had a clearly stated no-drug rule, and maintained this closely. The use of cannabis isn’t without risk or effect, and as yet there isn’t the means to differentiate between a tenant who purchases a legally supplied product and partakes occasionally, and one who associates with less desirable sectors of society and is under a drug influence most of the day.

The law currently allows a landlord to exclude prospective tenants from a property on the basis of smoking. Until a ruling is given in relation to the RTA we consider the default right of you as owners and Ruby Housing as Property Managers to decide if applicant tenants who use this product are accepted.

No doubt as the election and referendum gets closer there will be more opinions from interested parties. Please consider carefully all the implications of this vote.

The rules of cannabis: Govt releases draft legislation for how cannabis could be bought and sold
* Palmerston North tenant booted out for leaving cannabis plants out during open home 
Why NZ's cannabis bill needs to stop industry from influencing policy
* Canada tenant rights around cannabis use
* Australia tenant rights around cannabis use