Smoke-free apartments in Winnipeg
Canadian Press, Wednesday, September 20, 2006
WINNIPEG -- Smokers in search of an apartment in Winnipeg will soon have fewer buildings to choose from now that one of the city's largest landlords has opted to go smoke-free.
Globe General Agencies, which manages about 5,000 units across the city and thousands more across parts of Canada, will ban smoking for all new tenants moving into its 75 buildings as of Oct. 1.
Existing tenants who smoke will be allowed to continue, but the company sees the policy as a first step toward making all its buildings entirely smoke-free, said president Richard Morantz.
"Really this is just all part of providing a safe and healthy environment for our tenants," Morantz said Tuesday.
"With the ban in restaurants and bars and office buildings, this is just part of that trend."
He admitted the company has not logged a lot of complaints about smoking, but said people have reported being unhappy to have to walk through smoky hallways.
Some tenants at one Globe apartment building in downtown Winnipeg seemed pleased with the move.
"You really notice the smoke in the hallways and stuff," said Chris Bryant, a health-care worker and former smoker who has lived in Kelly House for 12 years.
"Even the caretaker smokes all over the building so it can be really strong."
Dave Burrows, a non-smoker who moved into the building in May, said he thinks the policy is fair.
"It'll go both ways," said Burrows, a 22-year-old University of Winnipeg student.
"If someone is smoking and has been living here for awhile, it's kind of a good-faith gesture not to put them out. But that's rough if someone is already interested living here and can't move in."
Several landlords have sought advice on a smoking ban from Manitoba's residential tenancies branch, but Globe is the first company to follow through, said branch director Roger Barsy.
At first glance the policy may not appear to violate any laws or infringe on anyone's rights, but an official ruling can only be made after someone challenges the policy.
"The Residential Tenancies Act allows landlords to create house rules, as long as those rules are given to the tenants, are reasonable and are applied fairly," said Barsy.
"But this is something that is new and so we would wait to hear all the sides and make a determination that will be well thought out."
Many apartment buildings already ban pets. Other rules have been considered reasonable if they promote safety, tenants' comfort or welfare or protect the landlord's property from abuse, said Barsy.
The Manitoba government banned smoking in all indoor public places on Oct. 1, 2004.
Last month, the Canad Inns hotel chain announced it will no longer take reservations for smoking rooms.
Globe also manages apartments in Saskatoon, Edmonton and Montreal but for now is only applying the ban in Winnipeg, said Morantz.
He first took the idea to a staff meeting earlier in the summer and has spent the last few months planning for the transition.
The company did not talk to a lawyer but consulted with the residential tenancies branch.
One constitutional expert said he doesn't see the rule as any mpre restrictive than ones that forbid pets.
Bryan Schwartz said if the case did end up before the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, an adjudicator would have to decide if the policy is discriminatory and, if so, if it's justified.
"Certainly the objective is not difficult to justify because it's an objective the government has endorsed itself through legislation," said Schwartz, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Manitoba.
"But you could try to argue that someone's smoking is an addiction, and if you aren't allowed to smoke in your apartment, you're being discriminated against on the basis of an illness."
Morantz doesn't expect to have a problem with enforcement.
"We have no intention of going into people's suites to do inspections to see if there are ashtrays with cigarette butts in them," said Morantz.
"We find for the most part the public is honest and respectful of the rules, but information also has a way of coming forward."
Canadian Press 2006