GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, smoking weed in rental properties could result in eviction or some hefty fines.
24 Hour News 8 went looking for answers about what rights landlords and renters have when it comes to marijuana.
Legal experts and area leasing companies explained that while adults can now legally store 10 ounces of marijuana in their home, landlords hold the right to ban smoking it or growing plants.
Smoking weed at hotels and Airbnb rentals could also result in fines as high as $5,000, according to one attorney.
Leasing companies Rockford Construction and Land & Co. run several rental properties in West Michigan. Officials from both businesses told 24 Hour News 8 that tenants and visitors can’t smoke marijuana on their properties.
“If you're leasing property (or) renting property, you're at the whim and control of whatever the terms of your lease are. That may very well prohibit some of these (marijuana-related) activities,” said Ronald Redick, an attorney at Mika Meyers in Grand Rapids.
Though legalization passed last month, Redick explained that landlords can ban smoking weed just like many ban smoking tobacco.
“There's no reason to treat marijuana smoke any different than tobacco smoke with regards to the damage it can potentially create to a leased premises, or the fire risk of it,” said Redick.
Michelle McLean, a partner at Bolhouse, Hofstee & McLean in Grandville, echoed Redick's assessment of the new pot law and landlord's freedom to ban smoking.
“It's an activity that can detrimentally affect the value of the property,” McLean said. “Smoking leaves behind an odor and discoloration and it travels through the air and can affect other people who may be in the apartment next door.”
Damage to property is a key factor in deciding what things landlords can restrict. That’s why McLean believes you could see growing restrictions. She recalled prior cases where homes were deemed inhabitable after illegal grow operations left behind black mold and ruined interior.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Marijuana in Michigan
However, adults’ right to have weed or consume it by means other than smoking is something landlords can't take away.
“It would be a little bit disingenuous to say you can't consume edibles that have marijuana in it because there's no nexus in eating marijuana and property value,” McLean told 24 Hour News 8.
Redick agreed that marijuana-laced edibles and oils should not be a problem.
Both attorneys urge potential pot renters to read leases closely and ask their landlord to clarify any questions.
Most leases also have a section about adding amendments. Even if marijuana isn’t banned in active leases, landlords can usually add it in mid-lease.
“Something like this that was not in the contemplation of the parties when the lease was executed is at least something that is subject to an amendment to address this subject," Redick said.
McLean said that landlords and tenants can avoid problems by communicating clearly. For landlords, she advised sending out notices listing restrictions.
Celebrating recreational marijuana where it’s prohibited could get people evicted.
“There is a provision in Michigan that a landlord can terminate with 30 days' notice of tenancy, of residential tenancy, and they don't really have to give you a reason,” McLean said.
Redick said the homeowners don’t have to worry about any of these smoking restrictions as long as their own their private property, which he believes includes the backyard.
Rental Properties Owner Association Director Clay Powell wrote 24 Hour News 8 the following statement regarding the legalization:
"The proposal on the ballot included the language already in state law that enables owners to disallow the smoking or cultivation of marijuana of any type. In addition, any form of activity around marijuana is still a federal crime. It is standard practice to disallow any criminal activity on the premises and a clause is typically included in a lease in this regard. Of course, landlords or property managers are likely to take their own approach based upon personal ideals or their attorney's counsel...or perhaps their insurance companies stipulations. As for fair housing, marijuana activities/users are not within a protected class."
Powell acknowledged it would be difficult to enforce bans other than on growing and smoking.
"How would a landlord/property manager know if someone ingested marijuana?" he noted.