Common Questions in Rental Housing
Yes. Renters may grow food inside their home because tenants are entitled to the exclusive use and occupancy of the property they rent. Tenants also have a reasonable right of privacy that permits activities like growing food without intrusion by their landlords.
However, tenants should consider and mitigate any potential for damage to the property. For example, tenants should exercise care and diligence when using hydroponics systems to mitigate any potential for water damage. Tenants in multi-unit buildings should also take care to maintain their plants to avoid creating a nuisance or disturbance to their neighbors.
Where a tenant grows food outside will depend on: the plants’ needs, including space, light, and growing conditions; the tenant’s preferences, including access, space, and convenience; and any lease specifications or restrictions.
Where tenants can grow food may also differ depending on the space available to them. For example, a single-family home may include a patio or yard in addition to the house. A lease agreement for a multi-unit building may also include a private balcony or patio or permit use of common areas.
Generally, tenants may grow food in areas of their private use, such as a balcony, patio, or another outdoor area that is for their exclusive use. Use of common areas is typically governed by the lease, though tenants may still seek to work out an arrangement with their landlords to garden in these areas. Also, consider that if a landlord is responsible for lawn care, there may be designated areas set aside for growing food to minimize interference with lawn maintenance.
There are many ways to grow food outside, including portable containers, raised beds, and in-ground gardening. Tenants should consult their lease to see if there are provisions applicable to specific growing methods. For example, a lease may impose restrictions on in-ground gardening or other methods that make physical alterations to the property, such as requiring that a tenant restore the outdoor premises to their original condition, or pay the landlord’s expenses doing so.16
Tenants may also wish to put gardening agreements with their landlords in writing to prevent unexpected charges or disagreements at the end of a tenancy. A tenant may be charged for repairs of damage to the property beyond ordinary use.17 However, reasonable minds could disagree over the extent of damage or whether simply growing food could be considered damage since it is an ordinary, natural, and life-sustaining practice. Renters also need to be generally aware of how their landlord and possibly other residents may have concerns about the use of certain pesticides.
Container plants: If you are using portable containers to grow food, then you can take them with you when you leave. Portable containers (and anything growing inside them) are considered personal property and legally, they are treated just like any other personal item.
In-ground gardens: Aside from practical considerations of size and ability to remove in-ground plants, tenants should be aware that planting in-ground gardens or fruit trees may result in these plants becoming part of the property and may not be removable by the tenant at the termination of the lease. If a tenant would like to remove all or specific plantings at the end of their tenancy or receive compensation for the improvement to the landlord’s property, they should complete a written agreement with their landlord.
16See, e.g., Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Low-Income Public Housing Statement of Policies, 2018/2019 (approved Oct. 25, 2017), https://mphaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2018-Low-Income-Public-Housing-Statement-of-Policies.pdf (“Gardens are permitted with Management’s prior written approval. However, there may be additional charges to restore the yard to its original condition.”)
17E.g., Minn. Stat. § 504B.178, subd. 3(b)(2) (permitting a landlord to withhold a tenant’s security deposit for amounts reasonably necessary to restore the premises to their original condition, with the exception of ordinary wear and tear).