SJC UPHOLDS EVICTION OF SECTION 8 TENANT FOR MARIJUANA CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

Published on: January 22, 2015

In the first of what should be many cases dealing with marijuana use in rental housing, the SJC ruled recently that a Section 8 tenant could be evicted for the possession of under one ounce of marijuana combined with allowing her live-in boyfriend to deal marijuana and possess a gun at the leased premises. The court overruled Boston Housing Court Justice Jeffrey Winik’s prior decision preventing the eviction of the tenant. Judge Winik was unconvinced that a public tenant could be evicted for possession of under 1 oz. of pot under the Mass. decriminalization of marijuana law.

The case is Figgs v. Boston Housing Authority (SJC 11532). A link to the opinion can be found here.

The Court did not address the interplay between the law decriminalizing the possession of under 1 oz. of marijuana and the eviction laws, ruling instead that there was more than sufficient evidence of drug dealing at the subsidized apartment to warrant eviction based on a serious violation of the lease and criminal activity. Police found a small amount of marijuana, plastic baggies, cash and a firearm in the apartment, charging him with possession with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a loaded firearm.

Although the question of whether a tenant can be evicted for possession of a recreational sized amount of pot will be left for another case, the Figgs decision can be used to hold tenants responsible for the criminal activity of their household members, including boyfriends, husbands, children and guests. The Figgs Decision will no doubt be useful to housing authorities in criminal drug dealing scenarios.  However, it is still wait and see if evictions will be allowed for recreational pot in light of the decriminalization of the same in Massachusetts.  Stay Tuned!

If you have any questions about recreational or medical marijuana and its impact on condominiums, contact Ed Allcock at eallcock@meeb.com.