Landlords, Associations Take Aim at Marijuana

April 23, 2018

Despite the movement to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes in many states, homeowners associations and landlords are showing a preference for banning the substance—which remains illegal on the federal level—in their properties.

Condo and co-op associations, as well as individual landlords, have been cracking down on residents who use or grow marijuana inside their units or in common areas, realtor.com® reports. In many cases, neighbors complain about marijuana odor. In Boston, for example, some condo associations are trying to pass amendments to their bylaws prohibiting residents from smoking or growing pot in their homes. The Boston Globe reports that some property management companies are even installing high-tech detectors in units that will send real-time alerts if marijuana is detected. 

Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is approved in 21 states. 

“Your home may or may not be your castle,” Washington, D.C.-based real estate attorney Benny Kass told realtor.com®. “The law is very clear that an owner in a homeowners association, co-op, or condo is bound by the [association’s] rules and regulations at the time of purchase and as they are properly and legally amended from time to time.”

But homeowners associations and landlords can’t discriminate against those who use marijuana, particularly in situations where its use is for medicinal reasons, adds Dan Zimberoff, an attorney at Zimberoff Deutsch in San Diego. He says that if an association board bans smoking entirely—including cigarettes—in a building, it can be more difficult to prove discrimination; but if it prohibits only marijuana, tenants may have a case. “You wouldn’t have rules prohibiting playing a particular type of music, like rock ’n’ roll. You would have prohibitions around loud sounds,” Zimberoff says. “The answer lies in a reasonable compromise. It’s just being neighborly.”

Source: “Pot May Be Legal in Your State—But That Doesn’t Mean You Can Smoke it in Your Home,” realtor.com® (April 20, 2018) and “In Boston-Area Condos and Apartments, the Smell of Pot Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor,” Boston Globe (April 15, 2018)