Dealing with “legal” medical marijuana grow-ops

What can landlords do when faced with a tenant's license to grow cannabis plants?

Many residential landlords continue to face issues with their tenants’ medical marijuana grow operations. A recently published article in the media highlighted a tenant’s ability to obtain a license from Health Canada to grow medical marijuana without any prior consultation with the landlord. While the focus of the article paints a bleak picture of landlords stuck in a situation where they may feel their options are limited, there are several avenues that a landlord can explore to mitigate their potential loss and to possibly end the tenancy.

Despite the fact that Health Canada can issue a license to grow marijuana for medicinal use to a tenant of a rental property without consulting the owner of that property, tenants must still abide by the rules set out by both in tenancy agreement and in the Residential Tenancy Act (the Act). Therefore, tenants do not necessarily have carte blanche to alter the rental unit and put the landlord’s lawful right in significant jeopardy.

When addressing the issue of medical marijuana, the first step is to investigate the authenticity of the license and ensure the tenant is complying with the stipulations set out in this license. Ask your tenant for a copy of their license and contact the RCMP/local police through their non-emergency number. The police will be able to authenticate the license’s veracity. If it is an expired license or otherwise invalid, the tenant would be running an illegal grow-op and the matter would be handled by authorities.

Licenses issued by Health Canada are for a specific number of plants and strict adherence to this requirement is necessary to keep the license valid and enforceable. Failure to comply with the stipulations on the license may result in the license being revoked and may constitute illegal activity.

Screening applicants for your rental unit who may have this license is not an option in this situation as a license is specific to the rental property and cannot be obtained prior to a tenancy. Additionally, screening against persons who require medical marijuana to treat an illness would constitute unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

What do you do if the license is valid and the tenant is complying with the stipulations regarding number of plants?

The Residential Tenancy Act has several protections in place that, while not obvious at first glance, afford landlords the right to protect their property and lawful right. The Act gives landlords the ability to end tenancy based on:

  • breaches of material terms of the rental agreement;
  • the tenant seriously jeopardizing the lawful right of the landlord;
  • the tenant putting the property at significant risk; and,
  • the tenant causing extraordinary damage to the rental unit.

A landlord may find that their situation meets one or more of these reasons to end tenancy when their tenant is running a legal marijuana grow operation. For example, if the landlord’s insurance is cancelled or invalidated because of the grow operation, the landlord would have grounds to argue that their lawful right has been seriously jeopardized. In this scenario, the landlord may also have a clause in their agreement that specifically states that the tenant will not do anything that could invalidate the landlord’s insurance which could then amount to a breach of a material term of the tenancy.

While the process to deal with this issue is not immediate and does require knowledge of the Act and its processes, landlords are not stuck without options. A foundational knowledge of the Residential Tenancy Act is critical to running a rental housing business.

LandlordBC
LandlordBC is a non-profit association that serves as the voice of the rental housing industry within British Columbia and, leads the professional operation of the industry by providing services and support to help owners and managers of rental housing mitigate risk to enhance their financial success. Governments and other stakeholders look to LandlordBC for guidance and leadership on all matters related to the rental housing industry.