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Weed’s About to Be Legal. Can I Smoke in My Apartment?

Your burning questions about what recreational marijuana means for your lease, answered.

Photo: Grady Reese / iStock

Starting January 1, 2020, Illinois residents over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase and possess up to 30 grams of weed for recreational use. The change is expected to help bring in much-needed tax revenue while freeing up police from arresting and prosecuting small-time pot offenses. But how will the new law affect the relationship between renters and landlords, or condo owners and their associations?

Property owners who pore through Section 10-30 of the 610-page legislation will note that they can’t be penalized for renting to tenants who abide by the new laws. But similar to cigarette smoking, house rules are still going to be up to landlords, says Rory Keane of the Chicago-based rental search site Domu.

“After January 1, there’s going to be a lot of marketing and advertising from companies taking the big alcohol and tobacco route for legalized cannabis,” Keane says. “We’ll see landlords likely making changes to provisions about no smoking and having upfront conversations [with renters].”

And while landlords can specifically spell out terms in lease agreements about not smoking within the building or unit, Keane says dictating the habits and behaviors of renters could potentially cross over a legal gray area into discrimination.

“When you look at how landlords create rules for any other legal substance, you don’t hear landlords asking tenants, ‘Hey are you going to be drinking alcohol on the property?’ Landlords can say, ‘Hey, I can’t stop you from smoking or consuming, but you’ve got to respect the provisions of the lease agreement.’”

What about renters looking to grow a pot plant in the backyard? That one’s a little trickier. Landlords can’t interfere with patients who have legally obtained and recognized medical marijuana cards, but otherwise, Keane recommends that would-be apartment-dwelling “craft cannabis” growers to leave it to the professionals.

It’s not just apartment renters and their landlords who are navigating the brave new world of recreational marijuana. Condo boards and homeowner associations are also trying to make sense of the new laws and consider how to regulate cannabis use. While a small-time landlord of a two- or three-flat can easily restrict indoor smoking by adding a provision in the terms of a lease, it’s much more difficult for condo boards to make changes to building rules, says @properties agent and landlord Randy Nasatir.

“I’m starting to see the questions [about recreational marijuana] come up in the meeting minutes of associations talking about rules in condo boards,” Nasatir says. “When you own your place, the assumption is that you can do whatever you want in it. But some associations may start writing new rules, and if it changes, it holds.” 

Nasatir suspects that there is going to be more consideration to rule changes in buildings that have a large number of condo units being used as rentals versus mostly owner-occupied condos. Either way, top-down changes in homeowner associations require majority support from owners and have to hold up to legal scrutiny.

“I think at the end of the day, if people are respectful of their neighbors, it won’t be a big deal and is just as likely to go unnoticed,” he says.

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