Pubdate: Sat, 15 Jun 2013
Source: Sault Star, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The Sault Star
Author: Tom Mills
Page: 11


I'm not as high as Ontario realtors are on a move to create a registry
of homes that have been used as grow-ops.

The Ontario Real Estate Association has thrown its support behind
Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod's second attempt to push a private
member's bill through Queen's Park that attempts to protect
unsuspecting buyers.

If the legislation passes, police who discovered a grow-op or illegal
drug lab would place the house on a registry. The home could taken off
the registry only after suitable repairs and an inspection.

However, that history would remain accessible to a realtor, through
the same system that lets them look up title documents. The realtor
would have to disclose the fact to potential purchasers.

That's information homebuyers want to know. A recent OREA survey found
93 per cent would want to be told if a house they planned to purchase
had been used to grow or make drugs.

Many illegal drug operations are housed in suburban bungalows,
particularly in larger cities. Drug traders buy them, modify them, use
them for a while, then move on and dump the house onto the real estate

Grow-op or drug lab use poses far more serious dangers than the
possible stigma of owning a house of former ill repute.

People who run grow-ops often rewire the homes to bypass meters and
avoid expensive power bills, as well as to feed electricity to heat

According to one report, that sort of illicit and makeshift electrical
work can make a fire 40 times more likely. Plumbing may be altered as

Moisture from marijuana grow-ops can cause structural damage and
foster the growth of mould and spores in ceilings, walls and floors, a
huge health risk.

Chemicals used in drugmaking are also absorbed in drywall, carpet,
wood, concrete and even backyards, says a senior researcher with
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

"You wouldn't want to put an infant or a child under these conditions,
being exposed to gases," said Virginia Salares.

Those are a couple of reasons why even a buyer looking for a bargain
- -- grow-op homes can sell for a quarter to a third off market value
- -- should beware.

Another is that another CMHC researcher sets the cost of
rehabilitating a former growop at from $ 3,000 to more than $ 100,000,
depending on the damage done and the length of the illegal operation.

People looking for a home in Algoma might find it reassuring that its
rare for police here to bust a full-scale grow-op or drug lab. A
search I did online found only scattered reports, such as the seizure
of more than 100 plants from a Northland Road home about a month ago.

But that reassurance might be hollow. Police estimate there are about
50,000 grow-ops in Canada. The reason they estimate that number is
because they don't bust them all, not by a long shot.

One veteran home inspector in Ottawa says he finds at least one former
grow-op every six weeks, and most were not detected by police.

Ottawa municipal officials have been following up on grow-op busts to
make sure the homes are fixed and that a professional engineer
inspects them. But it doesn't happen if there's no police record.

And that points out a serious weakness in the concept of a grow-op
registry. Only homes that have been busted will be on it, and that
seems to be a fairly small percentage of homes that have been used for
illegal drug production.

Yet with a registry, buyers might believe their potential purchase has
been checked out and has no history of use in the drug trade.

A better idea might be to put the onus on the seller, by compelling
him or her or it ( a bank, in foreclosures) to warrant that the
residence has not been used as a grow-op or drug lab.

But that's unlikely to happen. Real estate is a buyer-beware
business. Purchasers pay substantial amounts of money in legal fees,
commissions to real estate agents and home inspection charges to try
to protect themselves from a vast array of ripoffs and disasters.

Still, a competent home inspector should be able to detect signs of
the problems that arise after a home is used as a growop or drug lab.

Perhaps that's the best protection for homebuyers, better than the
false reassurance of a registry that would list only a fraction of
those scenes of the crime.
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