Condo Tenants Complaining of Marijuana Smell

7 Replies


I own a condo which I lived in for 10 years. I bought a new house 14 months ago and rented the condo out. The condo is a top floor unit in a building with 5 other units. I had renters for one year and they had no complaints. I have new (1 month in) renters and they complain non-stop via text messages all hours of the day and weekends, about “strong marijuana and cigarette smoke”, coming from the bathrooms, kitchen sink and oven. I have been to the unit several times since they moved in and was there countless days/ hours prior to their move-in and have never smelled any smoke in their unit, but have smelled it outside of another unit, two floors down, which share a common, I interior stairwell. I installed new door draft protection on the door and bought them an additional fabric door draft stopper.

I have notified the HOA of the smell outside of the other unit and the HOA sent a compliance letter to that unit. The bylaws have a clause that no resident should allow noxious odors to come from their unit.

The HOA president has inspected the stairwell when my tenants have complained and she also does not smell anything.

My tenants keep contacting me about this and I am wondering what else, if anything, should I do? Am I liable for their headaches because of the marijuana smell? I am out of options on how to fix the problem. 

Side note: they have also complained about the kitchen sink not draining properly. Well, they had a stopper in it...

Side side note: this is in Washington State where marijuana is legal.

Any suggestions for dealing with these tenants would be appreciated.

Does it still cash flow with 10% property managemtnt?

In the states where it’s legal, treat it like alcohol. If the smell of booze was coming from their room like they were spilling it everywhere then would it be different ? As long as they’re not definitively going against rules established by HOA or other quiet enjoyment or dwelling privacy laws then there is really nothing more you can do. It baffles me when I see people standing in the hallways smoking cigarettes right next to a big “no smoking” sign. But until there’s some sort of indisputable evidence, there’s nothing that can really be done. I would see if property management makes sense, if not, I would tell the tenants that you can’t take action against people who are following the laws and if there is any truly illegal activity going on to make note of it but until then it’s just part of the deal. Best of luck!

They seam like problem tenants, but if they smell something noxious, that is a real problem.  Offer them to break their lease and let them find another place.  

Michael: yes, it is cash flow. 

Nicholas: thank you for the great advice. I think of it as if this were a single family dwelling and the house next door smells like marijuana, I have no right telling them to stop. Unfortunately, there are no separate laws with regard to multi-family homes and smoking of any kind. I feel like I have done my due diligence in reinforcing the door drafts and notifying the HOA of the alleged CC&R violation. I cannot play detective. I cannot force someone else's tenants to not do legal things in their home.

Eric: offering them out of their lease is probably my only option. I have a feeling that their complaints may only get worse and may become ridiculous. 

Thank you all for your responses! I am not a professional landlord. I bought my condo when I was 22 and would like for it to be a retirement investment. I just need the right tenants, but don’t we all!

Get rid of them by letting them out of their lease and find some descent tenants.

If they do not want to leave tell them it is their problem and they will have to live with it. Ignore the rest of their complaints.

@Courtney Jo Claffey    It is EXTREMELY important to remember marijuana is not legal anywhere in the United States.

If the tenant asks to be let out of the lease you should let them out of it.  You do not want to be the test case.  It is likely that the courts would treat this more like a meth smell than a cooking smell.

I would let the tenants know that you have done everything that you can do to resolve the problem but you are not able to control the neighbors and are not able to do anything else about it. Then I would let them know that if they want out of their lease you are willing to let them out of the lease if they leave within 60 days and leave the property in perfect condition. If they do not go with this then do not even entertain future complaints and advise them to call the police or deal with the neighbor directly. If they stop paying rent begin the eviction process.

I am thinking it is better for the tenants to leave now when it is much easier to fill properties in the summer. This could avoid a winter move out when it can be more difficult to fill vacancies.

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