Sacramento Landlords Have Been Fined Nearly $100 Million Over Tenants’ Illegal Pot Grows. Is It Legal?

Jurisdictions across the state have begun aggressively pursuing property owners in their quest to crack down on illegal pot cultivation. But these property owners aren’t always at fault or even aware that their tenants are growing. That’s raising questions about the policy’s fairness and legal merits.

In Sacramento, dozens of homeowners are now challenging the city after sustaining $94 million in fines, Capital Public Radio reports. As a result, the city has fielded more than 50 legal actions from homeowners since May 2018.

Fresno County was among the first to start going after homeowners as part of enforcement. The policy then spread to the city and county of Sacramento, Placer, Stanislaus, Redding and all the way to Malibu.

Some jurisdictions, like Stanislaus County, have taken Sacramento’s legal woes into account when crafting the policy. As CalMarijuanaPolicy noted, Stanislaus’s new ordinance requires landlords to be given a warning when illegal cultivation is discovered on their property. It allows delayed penalties and a 15-day grace period to correct any problems caused by renters.

The absence of similar language in the City of Sacramento’s ordinance is a violation of state law says attorney Monty Agarwal, who represents clients challenging the city.

Sacramento considered revising its language at one point but no longer thinks it needs to. In an email to Capital Public Radio, a city spokesperson said the following:

“The government code is concerned with the structural integrity of the residence converted into a grow house. In that instance, the City’s Code Compliance Division already affords the owner with an opportunity to cure the structural integrity of the residence before administrative fines can be levied.”

Meanwhile, the legal challenges continue.


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