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Beaufort Delta
Housing

Can your landlord decide how many house plants you have?


The case of an Inuvik tenant with some 200 house plants raised a question for the NWT’s rental officer: can your landlord set a limit on plants in the home?

That question was contained within a broader application brought by the NWT Housing Corporation and ruled upon in February. The tenant is identified in the ruling only by their initials.

Much of the ruling dealt with a separate concern: the tenant’s obligation to transfer to another unit at the “reasonable and appropriate” request of their landlord, the housing corporation, following multiple reports of issues in the original unit.

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However, a section of the ruling was devoted to the topic of house plants.

Rental officer Adelle Guigon said the tenant had questioned “the reasonableness of a new rule the landlord has imposed” that limited her to 20 house plants. The housing corporation also instructed her to keep the unit’s humidity level below 50 percent.

“When the tenant moved into the current premises, she had about 200 plants and used several humidifiers,” Guigon wrote in her ruling.

The landlord’s instruction to limit the number of plants came after the tenant complained about the presence of white dust in the unit. An environmental engineer who inspected the unit concluded airborne moulds were present and, Guigon wrote, “identified the number of plants and humidifiers as the likely source of the moulds.”

The engineer recommended reducing the number of plants and setting the humidifiers to a lower level, which triggered the landlord’s written instruction to the tenant.

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At a hearing on February 16, the tenant told Guigon she had reduced the number of plants to “less than 70.” At the hearing, the tenant and landlord agreed the humidity had since dropped to between 27 and 29 percent – a standard level.

In deciding whether the landlord’s limit on house plants is appropriate, Guigon said the act governing tenancies in the NWT specifies that rules like this “must be reasonable” and must be made known to the tenant in writing (as had been done in this instance).

“These new rules are specific to this tenant’s desire to keep numerous plants and are designed to mitigate the risk of developing mould or causing moisture damage to the premises,” Guigon wrote.

“I am satisfied the imposition of a rule limiting the number of plants in the premises and controlling the humidity levels is reasonable in the circumstances.”

The specific cap of 20 plants, however, was amended by the rental officer.

“Given that the tenant has managed to reduce and maintain the humidity levels to approximately 28 percent with more than 20 plants, I think it would be reasonable to increase the allowed number of plants to 65 but reduce the required humidity level to below 30 percent,” Guigon wrote, issuing an order to that effect.

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