Just a word on grow ops……….

…”prevention”.  But we will come back to this word a bit later.

You read about them every once in a while……some raid on some downtown home that contained hundreds of marijuana plants, an old warehouse that was shuttered and yet people were still seen driving to…and while we used to read that these operations were mostly in the larger cities (for distribution purposes), more and more grow ops are being found in smaller towns.  Over 2 million plants were found last year in BC, Ontario, and Quebec, and the police estimate that there more than 50,000 grow houses Canada-wide, with some estimates as high as 100,000.  Plants can sell for $1000 each, so it’s a lucrative industry, and one that is gradually growing.

More alarming is the fact that almost all grow ops are found in rental units.  Why?  Well, a lot of landlords don’t do proper screening, so anyone can move in, and secondly, the damage that a grow op can do to a home is incredible, so you certainly would not want to own one.

A recent grow op found in Newmarket showed that the tenants had filled the basement and main floor with 2′ of soil and were growing the plants without the planters that we always see in the news clips.  Surely, someone had to notice a few dump trucks worth of soil being delivered to the home and put INSIDE the house!!!  Evidently not.

So what do grow houses look like?  Like any other house or rental unit out there.

These were ones that were found recently….

As mentioned, the damage that can be caused by a grow op is substantial.  The “renovations” necessary to convert your nice rental unit into a farm can be extensive..walls being knocked down, holes drilled in foundations, and the obvious mould and moisture issues that come from the growth process.  I won’t get into the details (you can Google it) but if you have a grow op in one of your places, it will cost you thousands in mould remediation costs, repairs, and environmental inspections…not to mention that you legally have to disclose the fact that it was a grow op if you ever want to sell it….good luck!!  And I won’t even mention that your rental property could be condemned.  (oops, just did..)

So how do you know if you have one?  Watch your property for the following (from the RCMP) :

  • All windows are covered, often with dark plastic or newspaper
  • Condensation forms on windows due to high humidity levels inside.
  • Residents may only be in the home occasionally and for short periods of time.
  • Unusual visitor behavior – no visitors or frequent visitors for short periods of time.
  • People access the home only through the garage.
  • Strange skunk-like odours.
  • Unusual garbage – little or no garbage or unusual items such as pots, soil and wiring.
  • Sounds of electrical humming or fans.
  • Unusual wiring on the outside or signs the hydro meter has been tampered with.
  • Little snow (or steam) on the roof in winter.
  • “Beware of Dog” or “Guard Dog On Duty” signs and excessive security.
  • Localized power surges or brown-outs.
  • Bright interior lights left on all day and night.

And in a roundabout way we are back to that first word…Prevention.

The first thing you need to do (or ensure your Property Management company is doing) is adequate screening of potential tenants.  This will mitigate the risk that you will have a criminal moving in.

Secondly (and this is obvious), regular inspections of the property inside and out can alert you to problems as quickly as possible, but more importantly,  tell the prospective tenants that you will do this.  And don’t tell them at lease-signing time.  If you have a prospective  interested at the showing, tell them that you will do an inspection 2-3 times a year to look for maintenance issues and to check smoke detectors etc.  This sometimes is enough to discourage a potential problem.  If they give you a hard time about inspections, time to keep looking for a tenant…

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