Pubdate: Tue, 07 Mar 2006
Source: Langley Advance (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Contact:  http://www.langleyadvance.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1248
Author: Matthew Claxton
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Cannabis - Canada)

LANDLORDS BEAR DRUG BYLAW'S BRUNT

Rental owners feel they will face added hardship if the Township's 
proposed drug-house bylaw goes ahead.

As Langley Township and other local communities toughen their bylaws 
against drug houses, local landlords are finding themselves under 
more pressure than usual.

The Township is looking at a new bylaw to condemn homes used as drug 
labs or grow houses until all damage is repaired, and also to note 
former grow ops on the land title registry.

While local politicians try to use bylaws to crack down on marijuana 
or methamphetamine production, landlords have mixed feelings about 
the regulations.

"Our industry is not particularly supportive of bylaws that penalize 
landlords," said Al Kemp, the CEO of the Rental Owners and Managers 
Association of B.C.

The problem of drugs is more of a political and judicial issue than a 
municipal one, Kemp said. If there is going to be a real decrease in 
the number of grow operations in the Lower Mainland, it will have to 
be led by tougher laws and sentences for dealers and growers, he believes.

Local landlords are already doing a lot to keep out growers and drug 
labs, Kemp said.

Laura Thompson owns nine properties, eight of them residential, 
around the Lower Mainland.

"We have never been affected, but only because we're very diligent," she said.

She tells all potential renters that she will make monthly 
inspections, and she follows through.

"We go there every 30 days without fail," Thompson said.

She has seen more than a few suspicious characters suddenly lose 
interest in renting her properties when she told them about the 
frequent inspections. She believes she scared off pot growers.

Even without a grow operation, the damage a bad tenant can inflict on 
a property can be severe, Thompson said. She recently spent $15,000 
fixing up a house that was torn up by a tenant's large dog.

While that kind of bill gives landlords a good incentive to watch out 
for marijuana growers, it isn't enough, Thompson said.

She said she understands why municipal governments put the blame on 
landlords, who should be diligent.

"At the same time, there are scams out there that will get you," she said.

There are stories of families with children who rent buildings, only 
to turn over the keys to drug growers, then vanish.

The main tool landlords need to keep grow ops out of their buildings 
can be summed up in two words, said Kemp: "It's called tenant selection."

Finding apparently good tenants is easy, but deterring the bad ones, 
and sorting out which ones might be faking their references and 
backgrounds can be more difficult.

Landlords need to develop interviewing skills and to look into more 
than what the prospective tenants give them, Kemp said. He regularly 
gives three hour seminars on tenant selection.

Like Thompson, Kemp believes regular inspections are a key component 
of keeping out drug growers.

It takes about three months to get a crop of marijuana to grow from 
seedling to harvest-ready plant. If a landlord drops by every two to 
three months, and lets his tenants know it, growers won't bother to 
rent there, Kemp said.

Some landlords do knowingly rent their buildings to marijuana 
growers, and may even be accomplices in the drug trade, Kemp said.

"That landlord should be handcuffed with the grower and they should 
both be headed to jail," Kemp said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom