Can A Landlord Evict A Tenant For Smoking Recreational Marijuana?

This subject has arisen a lot over the past few years as more states legalize recreational marijuana. A number of people have brought cases to court after getting evicted for being caught smoking or vaping marijuana either inside or outside of their apartments. Laws vary from state to state — and in some cases the relevant laws simply don’t exist yet. If you were evicted, you should approach a landlord-tenant law firm for advice on how to proceed. 

The distinction between vaping and smoking is not always defined in leasing agreements or contracts, which means it can end up the court’s decision who to back. Sometimes, state laws will help courts make this tough choice.

Francine and Timothy Weinandy were a couple who were living in the same apartment for 26 years when they were evicted after being caught smoking marijuana on their outdoor balcony. The Weinandys were 60-somethings and medically disabled — which is why their case was so important to them. 

Francine commented on the matter: “No one deserves to have their home taken away from them because of pot.”

And more and more people are holding to those words. Public opinion is now firmly in the camp of recreational and medical marijuana legalization, despite new legislation to reflect those views being implemented in state’s across the country slowly — if at all. The Republican dominated Senate might soon see a legalization bill, but most analysts seem to think any such bill is more than likely dead on arrival.

Before you smoke any substance in the confines of your own home, you should know exactly what your lease agreement says about the subject. This is according to Evan Loeffler, head of Seattle’s Loeffler Law Group, who practices landlord-tenant law (and has actually rented out properties himself, so he knows what he’s talking about).

“This issue comes up quite regularly,” Loeffler said. “I’ve represented a lot of residential landlords writing leases or dealing with tenants who either demand, insist, or deny the use of marijuana.”

It shouldn’t be a big surprise. Smoke can damage almost every part of an apartment, which is why most lease agreements forbid it. Some will allow residents to smoke on the balcony, while others might ask tenants to smoke farther away. Edibles are a different category altogether.

The basic rule of thumb is this: Whatever is in your lease agreement, abide by it — even if you have a card for medical marijuana possession and use. Anything outside of your lease agreement might warrant a conversation with your landlord or a landlord-tenant law attorney.

Don’t forget: Your landlord needs protection too. 

Jenna Marie wrote for SFGate: “The landlord can be held liable for injuries, loss of property, emotional anguish and even the cost of the tenant relocating to another rental property if it can be shown that an action or inaction was negligent. A guilty verdict can mean fines, reparations and possibly jail time.”

So don’t panic, and try to be respectful of one another while working out terms.