Landlords and Marijuana Legalization

With the limited legalization of marijuana in Washington, and a similar law having now passed in Oregon, many landlords wonder if that legalization means that marijuana must be allowed on their rental properties. Marijuana is, of course, still an illegal drug at the federal level and distribution and public use are also still clearly prohibited.

As with pets and cigarette smoking, landlords have some discretion with respect to what types of behavior are permissible on rented or leased properties. The issue generally revolves around how those policies are established, communicated and enforced. There’s no need to expressly prohibit illegal behavior because the law already disallows it. Legal but unwanted behavior – either because of concern about potential damage to property (smoke or ash burn) or because of the type of residential climate a landlord wants to establish – can be limited when done so fairly and properly. Just like prohibiting the use of a trampoline or setting up a kiddie pool in the backyard, landlords may explicitly prohibit the use of any marijuana on rented premises with the consequence of termination of tenancy. Such a restriction would need to be in writing and such a policy should be broadly applied to all renters. Enforcement against violations is perhaps not as easy as when a big dog barking in the window where pets aren’t allowed, but regular inspections may reveal the use. And, especially when renting single family residences, there’s nothing like having good relations with the neighbors for any issues with your property. If the neighbors notice something strange going on with your rental, make sure they know you care and have a way to get in touch with you so you can, with proper notice, check it out.

A good resource for landlords, with a sample marijuana lease addendum, is available at: https://www.rentecdirect.com/blog/2014/11/how-are-landlords-managing-legal-marijuana-use-in-their-rental-properties/.