By Me Guy Audet
In the course of their daily management, landlords can receive complains about a tenant doing drug trafficking or using drugs himself.
Can the landlord obtain the resiliation of the lease by proving that the tenant is doing drug trafficking? Can he obtain it by proving only a use of drugs?
In a 2003 decision, Corporation d’habitations Jeanne Mance c. Gaudreault(1), the evidence was to the effect that the tenant had, over a two weeks period, used his apartment as a local to do drug trafficking. He was selling drugs to his friends, strangers and other tenants of the building. The landlord stated that the tenant had changed the destination of the leased property by carrying a commercial activity in contravention of article 1856 C.C.Q.
The Régie du logement, in trial proceedings, had rejected the landlord’s claim for the resiliation of the lease stating that the tenant had been doing drug trafficking for a limited amount of time and then stopped.
In appeal, the question was as follows:
‟Does a change in the destination of the lease property, in this case, selling drugs, needs to be permanent for the landlord to obtain the resiliation of the lease? Can only one trafficking be enough to obtain the resiliation of a lease?”
The Court answers the question by stating that the activity itself is not an essential condition to obtain the resiliation of the lease, but a criteria to be considered. Therefore, only one trafficking does not mean an automatic resiliation, but it could be sufficient in some cases.
The Court explains that the simple use of drugs, even though illegal, is not enough to obtain the resiliation. A tenant not respecting his engagements in relation to the lease, however, is.
In this case, the Court decided that drug trafficking was an illegal commercial activity, in opposition to the simple act of using drugs which was not commercial. The Court stated that the drug trafficking was, in this case, enough to have changed the destination of the leased property.
The Régie du logement followed the same principles. To obtain the resiliation of a lease because of drug use, the landlord will have to prove damages caused by the situation. For example, complains from other tenants, noise caused by people coming and going in the building, faulty or aggressive behaviors from the tenant or the people who are given access to the building by him(2).
For example, the 22 years old son of a tenant who was giving access to people troubling the peaceable enjoyment of the other tenants and affecting the security of the landlord, his janitor and the other tenants pushed the Régie du logement to resiliate the lease despite the tenant’s 22 years of occupation(3).
However, testimony of a landlord stating that he had smelled, on one occasion, drugs odors, even though he was a policeman and did not want anything remotely related to drugs in his building, was not considered sufficient to resiliate a lease because no other damages were mentioned(4).
A landlord must therefore prepare his file to prove the prejudice brought to him by the use of drugs or their trafficking.
(1) 2003 CAnLII 26215 (QCCQ)
(2) Dion c. Gauthier, R.L. 10-081009-002G
(3) Lussier c. Legrand, R.L. 31-070628-088
(4) Laverdière c. Du ck, R.L. 28-070112-007 G