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Renters Growing Marijuana: Landlords Just Say "No"

Nov 11, 2011 Matt Roesly

The so-called "War on Drugs" has long been a part of our political landscape.  Millions of words have been written about its costs in time, money and government resources.  The discussion has generally been framed in national and international terms.  What has received less attention, however, is how the war on drugs actually impacts day-to-day life in various sectors of society and in various aspects of our daily lives. An area that has received very little attention is how marijuana laws relate to actual decisions for American businesses on the front lines of the 'war' such as property managers and landlords, for example, parties who must deal with renters growing marijuana.  For many landlords, the solution to the problem those renters can cause is to "Just Say No".   Cultivating marijuana has become an increasingly lucrative industry because of the proliferation of laws legalizing so-called "medical marijuana".  Such legislation has created a societal perspective that the growth of marijuana for medical and/or personal use, even if conceded to be a criminal activity, is really a victimless crime. Landlords bear the brunt of this view, not only because of the fire hazard and potential damage to the premises but also because of increased exposure to certain undesirable individuals who are drawn to use of the drug or the income marijuana sales can generate. Are renters growing marijuana a big problem? 

Some jurisdictions report that as much as 80 percent of the indoor marijuana arrests carried out are in rentals and, in those cases, a vast majority of the landlords involved have no idea the activity is even occurring.   So what can a landlord do to minimize potential exposure to renters growing marijuana? 

  1. Carefully screen prospective tenants to identify those who may be considering going "home-grown".  Warning signs include tenants who offer to pay in cash or overpay, omit information on the rental application or show a great deal of interest in utilities (and the basement or garage). 
  2. Learn the laws of the jurisdiction. Landlords should always know their rights and responsibilities. 
  3. Include a rental agreement provision prohibiting growing marijuana similar to those that control number of occupants and visitors or permissible number of vehicles. 
  4. Clearly communicate that the language in the agreement is not some form of lip-service and that any violation will be strictly enforced (e.g., eviction).

Hoping for the best is not an effective tool against renters growing marijuana; being proactive is. 

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