Landlords Beware!

We are privileged to represent many clients who own residential rental properties; drafting leases, advising on issues involving potential and current tenants, lease enforcement and evictions are just some of the services we provide. Within the past couple of weeks we’ve become aware of something new that seems to be happening with greater frequency in our area. Specifically, it is our understanding that individuals claiming to be interested in a property for residential use may actually be scouting out potential properties in which to set up indoor marijuana-growing operations. These individuals seem to show an unusually keen interest in such things as available sunlight to the rooms of the house, electrical capacity, and so on. What’s a landlord to do? Here are a few ideas to consider.

First, know your potential tenant. Develop and use a rental application, check references and run a credit and background check.

Second, make sure that your lease is comprehensive, well-written and understandable, fairly protects your interests as landlord, and is up to date and in compliance with Michigan law (including the Michigan Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, the Landlord and Tenant Relationships Act, the Truth in Renting Act and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act). Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all lease templates widely available online rarely suffice.

Finally, include a clause in your lease that specifically prohibits the unlawful manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to deliver, or possession of a controlled substance on the leased premises. By including such a provision landlords may be able to take advantage of a shortened notice provision for eviction in the event of a violation.

Despite the approval of medical marijuana in Michigan, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law. In fact, under some provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act, landlords who allow the use or growing of marijuana on their property could face prosecution, civil forfeiture of the property or other penalties. Currently pending in the Michigan legislature is a bill that would amend the Michigan medical marijuana act to allow landlords, under the authority of state law, to ban the growing or use of marijuana in rental properties.

Are you a residential landlord who is unsure of your obligations and rights under Michigan law? We can help. Contact us today if you have questions or would like further information.