When Tenants Are Growing Pot

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BY PROPERTY SOUP twitter @propertysoup

“I’ll get to the point quickly, My tenants are growing pot.

As a landlord, I think of myself as pretty easy-going. I don’t drop by my properties unexpectedly. I’m sure to make any repairs in an appropriate amount of time. I recently had an incident where I was making a deck repair on one of my properties, and notified my tenants that I’d be in and out over the course of a few days.  I went over to the property around 9AM, and when I walked in the house, I smelled a distinct smell. It’s the city, I assumed it was just the smell of a dead animal or garbage. As I proceeded to the back deck, I saw that there were several plants hanging. I knew that the one tenant was a Florist, so I assumed it to be some arrangements that she had made. As I got closer, the smell was more pungent. It didn’t take but a quick look to realize that these weren’t baby’s breath and tulips, they were pot plants. And they were huge. And there were about 10 of them. I had no idea this was happeningWhat are the laws surrounding the growth of marijuana on a rental property? Is this ground for eviction?Mr. Pots – Philadelphia, PA”

Poor Mr. Pots. We’re not sure if he’s more angry that the growth of marijuana was being done without his knowledge, or that parties were clearly happening that he wasn’t invited to.

Regardless, Mr. Pots has a legitimate concern. With the growth, sale, and use of marijuana under constant debate, what is the policy protecting you from illegal activity? Is the activity illegal at all? Is it grounds for eviction?

“What’s the problem with growing pot, anyway?”

Mr Pots situation reminds me of another situation I read about that came out of Oregon: Ideal tenants, quiet, rent was always on time. The Landlord had to go away for about a year to take care of a sick relative. The rent was continually paid while he was gone, but once he got back, the house that he was renting was found to have over 700 marijuana plants.  One of the tenants had a medical marijuana license in the state which allowed him to have up to 24 marijuana plants legally. But this guy had over 700. The entire house was used as a drug sale home, and a meth lab. They were cookin’ up a lot of trouble.

Furthermore,  when growing marijuana, there are certain temperature and environmental factors that must be met. The plants themselves give off humidity and can cause mold problems throughout the property. It’s estimated that each pot plant gives off a pint of water into the air each day.

Additionally, many growers opt to obtain heat lamps. This is not only dangerous as it may overload your electrical system, but they often rewire the electric so that they can steal electric from the electric company. You’d need a professional electrician to rewire this for you.

These growers think that they’re pretty smart and they even rewire the ductwork to try and redirect the smell from the house.

The legal stuff

Yes, marijuana growing can cause mold damage to your property along with electrical and duct work damage. What about the other stuff – the legal stuff. This is a hard thing to cover because each state has different laws surrounding the sale, purchase, and use of marijuana. Now, with medical marijuana being legal in some areas, the best and only way to know what’s right and what’s not is to ask an attorney or someone who is well versed with the laws in your state.

Some states, like our Oregon story, allow up to 24 plants to be grown. Others allow for 6 plants for every person who is need of it. So realistically, if a tenant is claiming to be in need of marijuana for medicinal purposes, plus he’s the caregiver to 10 other people who need it for medicinal purposes, that’s 66 plants. And it’s completely legal if he has the paperwork to back up his medical marijuana license.

Since smoking and growing marijuana for medicinal reasons is legal in some areas, it’s important that you get the details from your tenant.

If your tenant was recently prescribed the medical marijuana:

1. Get it in writing. Get everything in writing. From the prescription, to a letter from the doctor, to a letter from your tenant. You can never have too much documentation.

2. Get a local attorney to look over your lease agreement. If necessary, add an addendum to the lease. This is particularly important because if you are recognizing that your tenant is going to be growing and smoking marijuana for medical reasons, you also need to be clear that you are not supporting any kind of illegal use, sale, or production of marijuana to unauthorized parties.

The goal here is to cover yourself. Keep a copy of all forms, leases, addendums, EVERYTHING.

If your tenant was prescribed the marijuana before your lease began:

1. Contact your local municipality – You need to find out what your rights are. Clearly, your tenant withheld information from you, but if smoking and growing marijuana is within the terms of the lease, you should simply be able to issue an addendum to your current lease. Again, check first.

And just as we stated before, keep copies of everything.

The bottom line is this: With the laws changing, and marijuana being such a sensitive topic, you don’t want to jump into any situation with your fists up and eviction papers in hand. You need to respect renter’s rights just as your rights need to be respected. The first thing you should do is consult with someone who knows the laws. Also, you should become aware of the laws. This way, you can be sure to follow them and enforce that they be followed on your property without violating anyone’s rights.

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