Pubdate: Tue, 27 Dec 2011
Source: Cambridge Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 Fairway Newspaper Group
Author: Scott Cressman


No one wants to live in a home with a shady history. But how can 
buyers be confident their new dream home isn't damaged by an illicit 
past like a drug lab? Citizens have a variety of tools to keep them 
from being burned by a marijuana grow operation.

A host of problems can arise from growing illegal marijuana indoors. 
High humidity causes toxic mould to grow in the walls. Re-wired 
electrical systems illegally bypass the hydro meter, and can create 
fire hazards. A home's structure is often damaged by holes cut for 
equipment or rotted from the heat. Harsh chemicals can make the home unlivable.

Police want to help home buyers avoid damaged property, said Royal 
Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt. Christian Gauthier. This fall, the 
RCMP started a new website that lists former grow ops and drug labs 
in each province.

It's another way to warn home buyers against buying damaged property, 
said Gauthier. Hydro companies and the Canadian Realty Association 
encouraged police to share these addresses with the public, he said.

"It was necessary due to the associated health and safety risk," he 
said. "Homeowners now have a tool to keep them from being victimized."

The current list won't take long to look through. Only two addresses 
are listed for Ontario, because RCMP drug investigations are limited 
to cases linked to organized crime.

The properties will be listed for one year, then removed, Gauthier said.

Most grow operations are investigated by local police, and the 
Waterloo Regional Police offers their own way to check into 
suspicious properties. For a $34 fee, police will check an address 
and report any previous drug investigations.

The information isn't posted publicly, but it's a good way to make 
sure a homebuyer doesn't get a nasty surprise, said Olaf Heinzel, 
public affairs co-ordinator for Waterloo Regional Police.

The Ontario Provincial Police, on the other hand, do not publicly 
release the locations of their drug investigations.

Buyers should beware, but most don't need to worry. The housing 
market isn't flooded with marijuana grow-ops, said Adrian Baas, a 
broker at Re/Max Twin City Realty in New Hamburg.

They're rare, but his company has sold some former drug labs in 
Waterloo Region. Often, damaged homes are sold specially by the 
court, or simply torn down.

A real estate agency can't keep a home's history secret, Baas said. 
Anything the broker knows must be passed on to the buyer. A problem 
only arises if the broker has missed the signs.

"The unfortunate thing is we don't always know,"  he said. "There may 
be certain agents who don't look for certain signs."

Another strategy is to hire an inspector before purchasing a 
property. For around $1,500, that expert can check for damage.

The police tools could be useful for buyers considering a 
privately-sold home they suspect may have been a grow operation, said Baas.

The RCMP's online listing of grow operations can be found at .
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart