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Landlord Issues: Marijuana In Your Multi-Family

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Here in California, marijuana is a new hot topic.  It is still illegal on a federal basis but on a state level it is legal for recreational and medical uses.  Even though according to the state, it is technically legal to own and smoke marijuana a lot of landlords do not want to allow use on their properties.  Is that legal?

Who Is Your Attorney?
Our first piece of advice is to speak with your attorney on this.  Our advice is given through the way that we see things, but we always recommend to speak with your attorney on the matter.  If you would like we can recommend you to a few attorneys to speak with as well.  

Smoking On My Building Complex
Do you currently allow smoking in your units?  Do you have a separate smoking area for your Tenants?  Is there no smoking allowed? These are all questions to look at for the current cigarette smokers, which are being leased to.  If those cigarette smokers are allowed to smoke in their units, it becomes a little harder to explain to the marijuana smokers that they are not allowed to smoke in their units as well.  The argument that we have seen is that both cigarettes and marijuana are now legal to own and use in California, and because the cigarette smokers are allowed to smoke in their units, then the marijuana smokers should be allowed to use as well.  

Whether you agree with that philosophy or not, it would behoove you either let them continue with their habit, or to ban smoking on the complex all together.  The reason being, that then no smokers can say anyone is being discriminated against, since all smoke is being treated the same.  

If you currently have a location where smokers can go and smoke their cigarettes, then I would suggest to make a community rule that allows the marijuana smokers to use that same area to smoke.  Again, this way there is no way to say there is discrimination against any party.  

Can Property Management Help?
As a professional property management company, we can help in a few different ways.  The first way would be to set up a policy so that all Tenants know what to look for and abide by.  This way you will have a uniform system through which the Tenants will know the rules and be able to stay out of trouble.  

The second way that we can help is to help create that separate smoking zone on the property.  Often times that is the easiest way to solve the problem, because it allows everyone to keep using the property as they had been before but they all get to keep their previous habits as well.  

Finally, we can ban smoking on the campus.  The best way to do this is to keep in contact with the Tenants on your property.  As an example, recently we had a Tenant contact us who has always taken care of his part of the property and paid rent on time, been a Tenant for many years, and never really complained of anything.  By most standards, a good quality Tenant. He called us and said that he was having problems because the kids at his property were smelling the marijuana and asking questions about it, which he wanted to keep them away from.  He notified us and we sent out a letter immediately to make note that the property was not a smoking property and any marijuana use would not be allowed. If they kept up this use then we would be forced to take more formal action which could eventually result in eviction.  

On doing this, we received many complaint phone calls that we were, “Telling the Tenants what to do,” or that we couldn’t tell them not to smoke because it was legal (not true).  These also included a lot of yelling and blaming, which I’m sure you, as the building owner, does not have time for. However, for us this is a normal day, and therefore we see it as a value add to the Owner because stress can be a big factor in day-to-day happiness and for only a small fraction of the rents to have your whole building taken care of, it is often an expense that most property owners are happy to pay.  

To this day, those Tenants have not smoked any marijuana in that complex and our long term good Tenant is still there happy.  

If you have any questions about investment properties or property management please feel free to contact me through the information below.  We are always happy to help.  

Until Next Time,

Sanjeev (Sunny) Advani
Lic 01869863
Office Lic 02012941

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About The Author
Sanjeev Advani

• Hundreds of Investment Real Estate transactions successfully closed • 350+ Units currently under Property Management • 3+ Years of Construction Management Experience • Certified Property Manager, CCIM (In Progress) • Bachelors in Finance • Bakersfield, CA Native Deep Dive: I have been licensed in real estate for almost 10 years, and I have been specializing in investment and commercial real estate for the past 6 years. Through the years I have worked with Real Estate Developers, Investors, Average Joes, and many more. I am a Bakersfield native, and my educational background is in Finance. I have just completed the CPM (Certified Property Manager) certification which is one of the most prestigious designations in the Property Management Industry, with less than 1800 members world wide. I am also the President of the Board for Habitat for Humanity Golden Empire, the Vice President of the Board for Income Property Association of Kern County (IPAK), and Vice Chair of the Commercial Investment committee at the Board of Realtors. I look forward to working with you towards your real estate investment goals. Sunny Advani California Agent Lic# 01869863 | California Broker Lic# 02012941 Email: Sunny@RE-Synergy.com | Phone: +1 661 235 5726