Growing Pot – A Growing Menace for Landlords

As most people know, the great state of Washington decided last fall that it was a good idea to allow its citizenry to not only possess marijuana, but also grow it. While the law established control mechanisms, the legal action seems to have ‘softened’ the position of some law enforcement officials as well as the general population.marijuana

As a result, there is a growing (no pun intended) tolerance and acceptance towards indoor cultivation of marijuana. This social shift could place increasing burden on landlords and property managers coping from the residual effects of an indoor pot-growing operation.

To wit, we just toured a Federal Way, WA home where the previous tenant had an illegal operation going on. He was growing it in both the garage and the two bedrooms. The amount of mold present in the house was as great as we have ever seen!

Mold is already a HUGE problem in the Pacific Northwest. For residential occupants to add large amounts of moisture and heat to their homes for their pot-growing operation threatens to completely destroy entire homes.

For this Federal Way home, entire walls will need to be dismantled. The kitchen and bathroom are a total loss. The garage has so much mold and moisture that some of the framing was compromised. The extent of damage from the mold and moisture is unlike anything we have ever seen before. Sure, tenants forget to use the bathroom fan and some mold starts to grow on the ceiling. That is nothing compared to this!

Landlords – inspect your properties regularly. Have a ‘no cultivation’ clause in your lease. Enforce it!

Peter Nelson is a clean and sober President of Full Service Property Management. Full Service PM offers landlords of homes, condos, apartments, and HOAs in the greater Seattle area a full suite of management, maintenance and construction services. They may be found at

This rental does NOT come with a guarantee!

Check this out!  We just had this situation come up today.

The tenant sent in a maintenance request last Friday (the Friday before the Veteran’s Day long weekend).  We responded that day saying we would send out a maintenance tech on Wednesday afternoon of the following week to look at (and probably replace) the refrigerator.

A few appointment perturbations later we replace the refrigerator a little earlier than expected — on Wednesday morning.  Job done, right?  We can go back feeling good because we helped a tenant get a new fridge.  Makes the job all worthwhile, doesn’t it?

On Thursday we get an email from the tenant thanking us for the new fridge.  She then goes on to recite chapter and verse the Residential Code of Washington (RCW – commonly known as the Landlord-Tenant Law).   She says she lost $100 worth of food and then tacks on another $246 in ‘per diem charges’, and asks for a total of $346.

Now there is gratitude for ya – wrapped up in a nice brown box and shoved somewhere where the sun won’t shine!

Chapter 59.18.070 of the RCW states that the landlord has 72 hours to ‘commence remedial action’.  So after consulting with our attorney I wrote the tenant back explaining that we commenced remedial action within one hour of her sending the request!   I also expressed my condolences over the lost food and inconvenience.  End of story…or at least I hop so.

But here is the kicker.  How did we get to this double standard where everything in a rental is guaranteed?  When our refrigerator goes out and we lose food, is someone going to kick in the for the lost food?  I understand that as owners we have more control over when the fridge gets replaced than the tenant.

But that doesn’t automatically extend a right to guarantee!  Maybe I am missing something, but as far as I am concerned we warned the tenant it could be a few days and gave her ample warning to make other accommodations.


Peter Nelson is President of Full Service Property Management, a Seattle-based property management firm serving homes, multi-plexes, condos, townhouses, and apartments.  He has been a landlord for over 28 years.  He can be found at

This stuff drives me wild!  Americans!  There is no guarantee!  Stuff happens.  Learn to live with it (rather than running to your lawyer)!!  It’ll make living life a LOT easier on all of us.

Do NOT put laminate in a kitchen or bath

laminate-wood-flooring-in-kitchenLaminate flooring and stainless steel appliances are the fashion for homes and apartments (at least in the Pacific Northwest).  And for good reason.  They look sharp (particularly under halogen track lighting!), are easy to keep clean, and easy to maintain.

BUT, there is a down side to putting laminate flooring in a kitchen or bath.  Laminate flooring has a foam backing typically that makes the floor softer to walk on and easier on the knees and legs.  Cool feature, right?  Except when you have a water leak!  Laminate flooring — particularly at the lower end of the cost/quality scale — is porous and liquids can penetrate between the boards.  When that happens the liquid can be absorbed into the foam backing and trapped.

If you live in a mold-rich environment like the Pacific Northwest you are asking for a HUGE mold problem.  We recently had a situation where a refrigerator leaked water onto a laminate floor in a downstairs, daylight basement unit.  First off, there isn’t a ton of ventilation in the unit owing to the fact that one entire wall is underground.  It didn’t help that the tenants were using a humidifier for their children’s illnesses or that they were steam cleaning the floor.  But we believe an unreported leak in the refrigerator was the main culprit.

The leak seeped into the hardwood and a fresh, large crop of mold ensued!  The tenants were forced to move out and the owner had to pull up the flooring, clean the mold off, and re-install.  Not a fun (or cheap) affair.  Had the kitchen had vinyl or tile flooring there would not have been this issue.

This is just a word to the wise: if you are considering installing laminate, go forit.  Just don’t use it in the kitchen, bath, laundry room, or anywhere else that has a plumbing fixture.

Fight photo enforcement tickets

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate those tickets they send you in the mail because some camera somewhere caught me speeding in a zone or not stopping properly or making an illegal right turn.  Most of us assume the camera is right and the best we can hope for is to take a half day off from work in the hope of getting a reduced fine.  Since it doesn’t count against our insurance rates most of us justify just sending in the fine and moving on in life.

That is what “they” want you to do.  It is an easy revenue generator.  No fuss; no muss.  Well, I have a differentstory to tell!!  One of fighting…and winning!

I was driving south on I-5 in WA, just north of Centralia.  There is a speed zone there that drops the speed limit from 70 to 60 mph.  The camera caught me doing 72 in a 60 mph zone.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I hate those things sooo much!!  I called my lawyer and asked how I could fight it.  They told me to write a letter to the district attorney asking for everything — was it radar or laser?  last calibration date?  where was the officer (actually ‘cadet’) issuing the ticket?  everything and anything I could think of.  They said that the D.A. usually doesn’t respond and when they don’t I could ask the judge to throw the case out.  What did I have to lose?

So I returned the ticket to the county court and asked for a trial.  The court is 1-1/2 hours drive from my home.  But I have business in the town…plus a burning desire to beat these ^%$#@s!!!!

I got to court early so I used my iPad to surf the internet for my particular crime against the state.  In reading the law I discovered two things.  First, any photo enforcement must also have signs prominently displayed notifying motorists that the area is photo enforced.  Second, any fine must be “consistent with parking fines for that locality”, or something to that effect.

So I went before the judge,had her readme the ticket, took the oath, and sat quietly in the chair while she read through the paperwork and got familiar with my case.  She then asked me to provide testimony.

I explained to her how I sent a letter to the DA requesting discovery.  She looked through the paperwork and said that I had sent the letter to the county clerk and the clerk does not respond to discovery.  I replied that I had sent a copy of the letter to the DA and that seemed to satisfy her because she shut up.  (Interestingly, I could not find the letter I had sent!  But I had sent it to both the DA and County Clerk.)

I then explained to the judge that the law requires signage and that I had just driven down from Seattle and saw nary a sign, even though I was on the lookout.  I concluded that the law provides a fine not to exceed the fine for a parking ticket customary for the area, and that surely a po-dunk county like Lewis County doesn’t issue $172 parking tickets!!  This is where it gets good.

The judge I think realized I had a watertight case.  She says “I will take it under advisement and get back with you by mail.”  What she was really telling everyone in the court is “We are pretty clueless on this stuff but we don’t want to admit it in front of you for fear you will fight your ticket too!”  So I walked outta there feeling pretty good about stuffing it back in their faces.

Sure enough, a couple weeks later I get a letter saying there was no fine.  There was no statute listing why it had been dismissed — only that I didn’t owe a fine.

People — do your homework.  Don’t roll over on this stuff.  I just saved us $172 and it took me about a half hour of my time!!

So they say you didn’t stop before making your turn?  Really?  Do they have video footage to prove that?  Or are they just assuming that because you stopped a few feet over the white line and the camera automatically snapped a photo that you must have run the light?

It is time we stop rolling over and letting this photo enforcement dictate our lives.  Fight back.  Get creative with your defense.  Think!!