IF YOU ARE a landlord of rental properties or manage those properties, you might want to take notice of an issue making news right now in Montana.
Nearly a decade ago, Montanans joined a growing number of states and passed a medical marijuana law. But while it may currently be legal in many states, under federal law it remains illegal across the United States.
Despite a well publicized memo from the Obama administration that seemed to indicate the federal government was deferring this issue to the states, actions seem to prove otherwise.
In Montana, for example, the long arm of the federal government was extended last year in a series of raids that led to the arrest of numerous medical marijuana providers across the state. Among those arrested were several people in the Flathead Valley area - including a landlord whose only alleged crime was to rent property to others.
According to an article in this Sunday's Missoulian, Jonathan Janetski faces up to three years in federal prison for "maintaining drug-involved premises." Apparently there are no allegations Janetski grew or sold marijuana.
Janestski's attorney was quoted as saying that because his client believed the activity his clients used the property for was legal in Montana, it was legal for him to rent to them.
The case already is impacting landlords and property managers across the state. Companies that once did rent to cannabis outlets and growers are more hesitant to do so, unwilling to face a similar scenario.
The case led me to think of all of the real estate professionals I speak with who manage, as well as sell, real estate.
Federal law that applies in Montana also applies in California, Washington and every other state. I hope the sad circumstances being faced by Janetski serve as a reminder to landlords everywhere of how far liability can reach.
So, do you know what is taking place on the properties you manage? Are you allowing activity that while legal under one jurisdiction may be illegal under another?
I'm just saying it may serve landlords well to remember Janetski's story. Three years is a long time with little to do except regret a decision.