Owners in Yuba responsible for tenants' pot law compliance
Weeks before medical marijuana growers begin putting their 2013 crop in the ground, property owners should be aware: You're responsible for compliance with Yuba County's ordinance on such grows, even if you're not living there.
County officials estimate that in about half of the 180 visits they made last year to check for compliance with the county's still-new ordinance, the growers were only renting the property from someone else.
Jeremy Strang, manager of the county's code enforcement division, said the ordinance's language is clear: If it's your property, it's your responsibility to keep it from hosting a public nuisance, medical marijuana or otherwise.
When his department received a complaint about growing last year — the medical marijuana ordinance is enforced through neighbor complaints — responding code-enforcement officers would give notice to both the property's residents and owners, if they differed.
"I want to say we had pretty good responsiveness," Strang said, adding that a typical rental agreement would include code enforcement violations as grounds for eviction.
For failing to comply with the ordinance, property owners face warnings and eventual fines or even a year in jail, in addition to covering any costs for abating the problem.
The manager for a duplex and apartment complex in Olivehurst said the owner has a simple way to avoid the issue: barring prospective tenants from growing marijuana of any kind.
"It's not allowed at all," said Samantha Adams, who has managed the units for three years and said she couldn't recall any tenants who she later found were growing marijuana. "From a business standpoint, the owner doesn't want to deal with the repercussions of it."
Though the ordinance was adopted only last spring, and revised late last year, Strang said he believes compliance will be better this time around.
The Yuba County Growers Association, which supported the ordinance after it was revised, has grown in membership, Strang said, so the awareness should've grown too.
If either growers or landlords are not sure if they're following the ordinance, he said, his office is willing to help.
"The first goal is education," he said.
Sam McConnell, president of the Growers Association, said that, even before his group formed, he counseled fellow growers: Keep your landlords in the loop.
"Always let 'em know," he said, adding that with the ordinance in place, such forewarning probably is even wiser. "It's probably going to fall on them if you can't pay the fine."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.