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Landlords and property owners are increasingly renting or leasing to marijuana businesses in cities and counties that prohibit land uses for cannabis activities, be it for a marijuana dispensary, manufacturing, delivery service or cultivation.

As a result, such cities and counties are either suing landlords for either code violations or violations of State law that can carry penalties of thousands of dollars per day or by criminal prosecution demanding, as a condition or either dismissing the criminal action or reducing the penalties, that the landlord or property owner file and unlawful detainer to evict the tenant who is operating against city or county law.

Usually, the landlord does not know up front the intention of the tenant to use the property for a cannabis business, or if he does, does not care as maybe the landlord believes the activity is lawful because State law now allows for the legal sale of marijuana.

This makes no difference to the city or county prosecuting the property owner. All they care about is the most cost-effective way to eliminate the illegal activity and that is to sue the landlord and force him or her to evict the tenant. Thus, saving the city or county the time and money to do it.

However, there are defenses to such actions, either criminal or civil, as the landlord is not generally liable for the actions of the tenant, illegal or otherwise, unless the property owner is an aider of the illegal use, which requires prior knowledge and participation with the tenant.

Should the tenant create a nuisance on the property after the lease is signed, the landlord is also not responsible unless the use creates a physical hazard to other people or property.

So, should you as a landlord be sued by a city or county, or receive a criminal citation for allegedly renting or leasing to a marijuana business, you have legal defenses that will defeat the lawsuit, or put you in a favorable position to negotiate your way out.

Call us. Most lawyers don’t know how to defend such actions.