From one homebuyer to the next, no two wish lists are the same. When it comes to the history of a property however, Ontarians share a similar desire: 93% of them want to know if a home they are planning to purchase was formerly used as a marijuana grow-op (MGO) or clandestine drug lab, according to research conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
"Realtors have a legal obligation to disclose to potential homebuyers if a home has been used as a marijuana grow-op or drug lab, however the absence of a province-wide registry makes it difficult to do so," says Costa Poulopoulos, president of OREA. "Grow-ops are a major problem for homebuyers in the province and Ontario Realtors have been urging the government to establish a registry to protect consumers for over ten years."
In 2013, Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean-Carleton, introduced Bill 29, Clandestine Drug Operations Prevention Act, 2013. The bill would require municipalities to register remediation work orders on the title of former grow op properties. Licensed professionals with access to this information could protect consumers by ensuring that these properties are disclosed prior to the completion of the real estate transaction.
"The prevalence of these homes in Ontario is alarming," says Poulopoulos. "Realtors want to be able to warn their clients as early in the purchasing process as possible."
MGOs and clandestine drug operations can cause significant damage to homes, such as mould, chemical contamination, structural alterations and hazardous electrical rewiring. Often, these homes receive cosmetic renovations to disguise their former use. Homebuyers who unknowingly purchase a former MGO might find themselves facing high remediation costs.
"Speak to your Realtor about how you might find out if the house you're considering was a former grow-op," advises Poulopoulos.
Here are some signs that may point to a former grow-op:
- Mould in corners where the walls and ceilings meet
- Signs of roof vents
- Painted concrete floors in the basement, covered with circular marks (made by plant pots)
- Evidence of tampering with the electric meter (damaged or broken seals) or the ground around it
- Unusual or modified wiring on the exterior of the house
- Brownish stains around the soffit that bleeds down along the siding
- Concrete masonry patches, or alterations on the inside of the garage
- Patterns of screw holes on the walls
- Alteration of fireplaces
- Holes in the floors or ceilings that have been repaired or patched and repainted
- Excessive moisture in the house
- Staining on walls and floors from condensation
- Altered showers and bathtubs (for watering plants)
- Rusting in the furnace and lining of chimneys
- The smell of chemicals or fertilizer
- Alterations to the hydro line