New Law Gives Tenants the Right to Grow Food
California recently passed the California Neighborhood Food Act, codified as California Civil Code Section 1940.10. The law grants California tenants the right to grow edible plant crops for personal consumption or donation at their rented single family home or duplex. Tenants are now free to grow lettuce to their hearts’ desire...with some strings attached:
First, tenants’ edible crops must be grown in “portable containers”. Unless a landlord-tenant agreement allows otherwise –most landlord-tenant agreements would- tenants are not given the right to plant directly into the soil. The portable containers must be outdoors; there is no right to indoor cultivation of tenant crops. The portable containers are only permitted in the backyard area of a property. There is no limit to the number of containers if they are regularly maintained.
Second, marijuana is expressly prohibited as an “edible plant crop” under the statute. It is clear that the legislature is not granting tenants the right to grow marijuana. Lawful and unlawful cultivation of marijuana will continue to be the source of many evictions in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
Lastly, California landlords are still given a great amount of discretion under the statute. Landlords may ban pesticides, may approve the tenant’s portable containers, and may charge extra for additional water use, and may inspect the property.
As an example, the author's lettuce, pictured above, would be not protected under the new statute because it is located in a non-portable container.
In the author’s opinion, it will be unlikely that the new law will be the source of any pricey evictions or tenant lawsuits. Most landlords would probably allow their tenant to grow a container of lettuce, even if the new law were not enacted.
The law is effective in illustrating the depth and complexity of California Landlord-Tenant Law. Central Coast Landlords should be careful if they are using old, pre-printed landlord-tenant agreements, or landlord-tenant agreements pulled off the internet. Such forms can easily be in violation of California law. Freebie forms are unlikely to incorporate the many different California landlord-tenant laws and regulations.
For tenants, the law illustrates how tenant rights expand every single year in California. Tenants can legally stand-up for themselves if they have a truly unreasonable landlord.
For any landlord or tenant questions, call the Law Office of Brian Mathias. Ready to stand up for your rights?