HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Grow-Op Landlords Paying Up Without a Whimper
Pubdate: Mon, 16 Aug 2004
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The city has handed out almost $30,000 in penalties to landlords whose 
houses contained marijuana growing operations-and not one of the property 
owners has complained.

Carlene Robbins, manager of the city's bylaw administration branch, said 
the $1,700 penalty issued to each landlord is a result of a new law to help 
the city recoup costs of busting a grow-op.

"I'm actually quite surprised that I've had no negative reaction to it 
yet," said Robbins, noting the penalty is automatically added to a 
landlord's tax notice. "I really thought we would start getting people 
complaining. People are either ignoring the letter we sent or won't really 
realize [the penalty] until they get their tax notices that's going to show 
an additional charge on there. Then maybe they'll flip."

City council approved the penalty June 22. The $1,700 charge is the 
estimated cost for police, firefighters and city inspectors to dismantle a 

The charge also applies to clandestine drug labs, where chemical drugs such 
as crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy are manufactured. Police, however, 
haven't busted any labs since the new law came into effect.

Robbins said the $1,700 penalty is on top of the $1,400 a landlord must pay 
the city to allow a former grow-op house or lab to be occupied by tenants 
again. This figure includes $840 to have the home inspected for infractions 
and then another $400 to $500 in permit fees to fix any problems noted by a 
city inspector.

"And that doesn't include the costs of actually fixing it up," Robbins 
said. "It's a lot of money for the homeowner who's renting and legitimately 
innocent, and it was their tenant who was doing it."

Const. Sarah Bloor, a media liaison officer for the Vancouver police 
department, said she couldn't estimate how many landlords knowingly rented 
their house to a marijuana grower.

Bloor, however, said the city likely hasn't received any complaints about 
the $1,700 penalty because the landlords know it's their responsibility not 
to be fooled by their tenants.

Police statistics for January to May show the department's drug unit busted 
133 grow-ops. Bloor didn't have recent statistics, but said police bust an 
average of eight grow-ops per week, which translates to about 400 a year.

Al Kemp, chief executive officer of the Rental Owners and Managers 
Association of B.C., says landlords aren't complaining for a different reason.

"I'm probably going to be so embarrassed that I got duped that I'm not 
going to dispute the fine," Kemp said.

Though Kemp agrees that landlords in cahoots with marijuana growers should 
be penalized, he doesn't believe innocent landlords should be fined.

He said even the most diligent landlords-including the City of Richmond 
which owned two houses found to contain marijuana-can be fooled by a 
professional marijuana grower, who may use a new identity or have 
impeccable references.

"The analogy I use is no different than if the corner grocery store gets 
robbed tonight, and tomorrow the city sends the owner a bill for $1,700 
because he should have done something to prevent the robbery. Everybody 
would agree that's ridiculous, but it's no different."

If B.C. Hydro's experience with marijuana growers and penalties is any 
indication, the city's $1,700 penalty will likely be paid. In the last 
fiscal year, Hydro sent out bills totalling $2.2 million to people who had 
stolen power, about 90 per cent of which was related to grow-ops.

As of February, Hydro had recovered $1.3 million, with at least one 
customer willing to pay off his $30,000 bill in cash-not terribly 
surprising, since a pound of marijuana fetches about $2,500 to $3,200 on 
the street.
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