If you have been watching cannabis news in the State of California, you have recently seen several cases of property owners asserting their due process rights in lawsuits against local jurisdictions who have imposed excessive fines and penalties for alleged unlawful cannabis cultivation on their property. In one recent case, landlords sued the City of Sacramento in response to approximately $94 million in fines being assessed across the city. This began in 2019 when dozens of landlords say “they rented to tenants who operated the illegal grows without their knowledge, despite following best practices as a landlord” and therefore were challenging the excessive fines imposed from the enforcement actions. In another case, class members filed a class action in Humboldt County for fines in excess of $1 million for, in some cases, cultivation that occurred on the property years before the landowner even purchased it. These are an example of how people in California are beginning to see extreme enforcement of cannabis regulations imposed on landlords for unlawful activity being committed by tenants without their knowledge.
Fines imposed on landlords is not a new concept but as a struggling cannabis industry tries to shoulder the monumental task of competing against an unregulated and untaxed market, these examples of excessive fines are becoming more and more commonplace. Knowing this, we at Armada Law Corp have decided to identify some key actions that should be immediately taken if you receive an enforcement action against your home or property but first, let’s discuss the legal protections you have against excessive fines.
First, a landlord should always obtain a written lease that includes language prohibiting unlawful activity in and around the rented property. Second, the landlord should conduct an adequate investigation should any readily apparent violations come to their attention and take any required remedial action, which can include sending a notice to abate the violation to their tenant. Lastly, always to the extent possible maintain a positive relationship with government officials.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE AN ENFORCEMENT ACTION
DO NOT DELAY. If you receive a notice of an enforcement action you are on a short timeline to preserve your right to challenge the alleged violation, which can be as short as 15 days. Seeking counsel within a day or two of the notice is highly recommended. Gather and organize your files, which can include a written lease, payment records, communications with the tenant (which should always be in writing), utility bills, photographs, and anything else that shows your diligence as a landlord as these records can strongly impact your chances of a successful challenge.
Armada Law Corp is experienced and knowledgeable in the area of protecting the rights of property owners. We have defended numerous landlords, against enforcement actions, in jurisdictions across the State of California. If you have been served with a Notice Of Enforcement, call us today 510-200-8695 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.