Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jan 2010
Source: Cochrane Eagle (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 Cochrane Eagle
Author: Cori Lee Miller
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


For years illegal marijuana grow operations have been springing up
across Alberta, and while some go undetected, many are found and
dismantled by police.

Often times these homes have been modified to create a more hospitable
environment for the plants.

Because of the dangers resulting from these activities, including
structural problems, electrical tampering, contamination from
chemicals, high levels of combustible gases and the growth of hidden
and visible moulds, the houses are often deemed unhabitable until
proper remediation can take place.

Damages depend on the size of the operation. Larger numbers of plants
require more energy and water.

According to RCMP Sergeant Stephen Scott, the non-commission officer
in charge of  Calgary's integrated proceeds of crime unit and the
civil asset forfeiture gate-keeper,  it can cost upwards of $50,000 to
remediate a significantly damaged home.

Eventually the homes are put up for sale. Ron Esch, CEO of the Calgary
Real Estate Board, said buyers need to be aware that former grow
operations are on the market.

"It's a big concern of ours," said Esch.

While some sellers remediate a home before selling, others will sell a
property as is and leave the remediation up to the buyer. Esch said
it's crucial buyers do their homework and ask questions if they have
any suspicions regarding a property.

Once a property has been remediated the seller isn't required to
disclose its past, although Esch said realtors working to sell the
houses have an obligation to ask the seller to disclose the

"We think there should be a moral obligation for sellers to disclose,"
he said, adding if they refuse, realtors are free to  say, "I won't
take that property if you won't disclose it."

Most sellers agree to disclose the information to the

Esch said buyers should "make sure they ask for all documentation that
would prove to the buyer that the house was completely remediated to
health standards."

Esch said if a buyer sees something "like water damage, mould, holes
in the closet, you got to ask what caused this."

"They have to give you an honest answer. If they don't give you an
answer that's not disclosing."

Failing to disclose information can lead to some serious consequences,
like the sale of the home being cancelled or even a date in court.

For example, failing to disclose a problem not obvious to the naked
eye, which then causes serious issues thatcan later cause the buyer to
go back on a seller, ask the seller to pay to fix it, or seek even
damages  in court.

Buyers shouldn't be lulled into a sense of security when house hunting
in a swanky neighbourhood either, said Esch.

"They are all over the place, in million dollar homes in some

Cochrane's GlenEagles neighbourhood, with it's million dollar homes
and carefully manicured lawns, was home to a grow operation in 2009,
as was the Glenbow area.

In GlenEagles, 292 plants were seized and in Glenbow 381. Combined,
the plants had an estimated street value of $840,000.

Esch said often sellers are leery of disclosing a homes past because
of the stigma that exists for properties used as illegal drug operations.

"Sellers are always concerned that there will be a stigma attracted to
the property," he said, adding when some buyers find out about the
home's past they walk away from the property.

Esch said realtors will continue to sell these former drug operations
with ethics and responsibility in mind.

In 2009, three houses - two in Cochrane and one in Rocky View County -
were found and dismantled by police. 
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