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Updated Feb 26, 2015, Updated March 14, 2017 (Websites links updated. Updated mortgage information.) 

 

A grow op property is one that has been used for the production of marijuana, in many cases mass production. Other similar properties are meth labs or clandestine drug operations. 


I regularly receive questions about grow ops in the city.  My challenge is that the prices of these homes often attract new buyers or those looking for a deal. The first step is education and then careful review so that people can make an informed decision.


This is often how the process works:

  1. A home is built or purchased by Owner A. Owner A or their tenant use the property to grow marijuana plants and most often significantly modify the home to do so. Mold spores from growth accumulate in the home. Sometimes the home is also where drugs are directly sold. View what an example home looks like. ALERT posted this video on Feb 26, 2015.
  2. At some point the home may or may not be closed down by police and the health authority. Other times the owner ‘remodels’ and returns it to the market as a home for sale.
  3. If the health authority requires remediation an Executive Order will be produced and posted on the Calgary Health Region website. A caveat, a document declaring the issue, is registered on the property title. If you want to see some examples, go have a look. These aren’t minor issues. Examples include extensive mold growth, altered electrical systems, holes bored in foundation walls, plumbing altered and ventilation systems modified.
  4. The home is sometimes remediated as per the executive order. The challenge is that there are no current standards of remediation in the province of Alberta. There is no guarantee how the work was done or that future issues such as mold won’t return. Once the home is remediated, the caveat on title is removed.
  5. The home is listed for sale in the future either as a grow op, a remediated grown op or sometimes as a regular home if it wasn’t caught by police. Along comes potential Owner B. This is where realtors enter the picture. As a realtor, I cannot and will not list a property for sale that is a grow op or remediated grow op without full disclosure. Not everyone shares that opinion but all local realtors have been advised to disclose the history of a property. Private sales have no such requirements as it is not agreed that a remediated property still has a ‘material latent defect’ that would require disclosure. Buyer Beware prevails.
  6. Representing buyers. Many buyers inquire about and specifically request not to view or enter any homes that are grow ops, remediated or otherwise. Others consider the option due to the potential cost savings on purchase for a remediated property. Unremediated properties often sell for far under market value and investors or flippers sometimes review these options.

A newly emerging question is coming up around homes used as formerly legal growers for medical marijuana and if these homes pose any issues for future owners.

 

When representing a buyer reviewing a home, the potential that it was a former grow ops is always a consideration. As banks are less and less willing to provide a mortgage on such a property, it isn’t even an option in many cases. (A great article by BC mortgage broker addresses this side of things. ) 2017 Updated: Some lenders will now fund mortgages on these homes.


A thorough inspection can identify clues that a home was used as a grow op. Checking the internet for any information on the property is always a must. As the Calgary Health Region removes inactive properties, there is no public searchable database available to buyers or realtors to check even for legally busted properties. I think this absolutely must change so buyers have protection to at least have visibility to those properties reviewed by police and the health authority. The last thing I want to do is represent a buyer in purchasing a home that we later discover has such a history.


If a buyer wishes to purchase a home with such a history, careful review and education is essential. Some reading to get you started if you are considering the move.


Some informative links regarding grow ops in Alberta:

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General - Grow Op Free Alberta Recommendations Report

Alberta Health Services - Abatement Program

AREA Document - Recommendations for the Assessment and Remediation of Properties Used as Illegal Drug Operations

 

My family and I would never knowingly live in a former grow op. Nor would those of many inspectors and contractors I have asked. Why? Future economic uncertainty since banks and insurance companies are reluctantant to provide mortgage for these properties. Potential medical issues with a concern that the mold could return and also the knowledge that the home was used to produce and sell drugs. The folks who were originally involved and their friends and not so great friends may return for a visit one day. I don’t want my address on that list.


If you have further questions about this issue please feel free to give me a call and I can answer where I can and put you in touch with experts that work with mold and remediations. I've had great conversations with folks on different sides of this issue. The most important thing is that all information is available to potential owners so they can make an informed decision.

Comments

Stefan on Jan 7, 2014 4:25 PM
Hello Monica,

Thanks for the article, I agree with most of what you are writing, but as a professional Environmental Technologist talking to many senior air quality inspectors and related professionals they all agree that if you are buying a fully remediated former grow-op you will get 15-20 pages of lab results telling you that the house is sound. These professionals have done lots of inspections and samples to get the house 'healthy' again. If it is done properly by trustworthy firms, I rather move into a fully remediated grow-op than a 60s bungalow (that you can buy for the same money), because in the older house you know (not scientifically though) that you will have issues, while in the fully remediated house, it's proven to be healthy...

ALL surfaces have mould spores, even our tounges! There is as big of a risk of getting mould back in a former grow-op as it is to get it in a brand new home...

Just my $0.02..

Thanks, Stefan
Monika Furtado on Jan 7, 2014 4:37 PM
hi Stefan,
Thank you very much for your post. I think that if qualified companies were doing all of the remediation under an accepted set of standards this challenge would be better handled. As it stands, there are no accepted provincial standards and banks and insurance companies have chosen not to lend on these homes or insure them in some cases. I get calls regarding these homes regularly and some folks think the issues are minor and they can flip a property for profit. It's just not that easy.

Thank you for your contribution. The more information the better.
Cheers, Monika
John Matell on Jan 17, 2014 1:03 PM
Monica, with respect, I understand your views are typical of the views by others in the community. The best analogy I can think of is in the 1980's many people were worried that they could catch AIDS by being in the same room as someone with the virus or by shaking their hand.

Education and information has taught us that the above is not possible.

Similarly with grow-ops, there are now very strict health guidelines for the remediation with the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services. Grow Ops that are re-mediated now have much cleaner air quality than any of the neighboring properties - this is can be proven, easily tested and quantified.

Almost every house I visited over the holidays was a "grow op" as I saw poinsettias, spruce trees and various other plants growing inside.

In terms of air quality, what is the difference between a house with 10 house plants growing and 10 marijuana plants? The answer is the house with 10 marijuana plants will now have a stigma attached to it as you have outlined above.

Please allow the above to continue the pursuit of informed education on this matter.




Andrew on Feb 17, 2014 3:18 AM
Hi,
Thanks for sharing I really like this blog.This post is very effective for us.
Bob on Feb 26, 2014 9:40 PM
Air Quality Inspector..... Who regulates the qualification and quality of them... from what I have seen of Home inspectors there is not much regulating them what can we expect the Air Quality inspectors who are unregulated (heck I could be one too). Throwing a bunch of papers in front of a prospective buyer or renter saying that 2 years prior a remediation and air quality inspection was done could be very inaccurate. If the remediation was done by the owners brother-in-law, who knows if it was done properly. I have seen new homes built in Calgary, "inspected" by building inspectors that are full of errors in plumbing and heating and framing. A lot of them spend the best part of the morning at AW, Timmy's, etc. Should I trust any inspectors of any thing.... dang why is the hot water on the wrong side of the sink in 50% of the homes? Why is the cold air return in the ceiling 3 feet from the hot air vent in the ceiling?
Monika on Feb 27, 2014 10:33 AM
The concern regarding regulation and consistency has been an ongoing comment I hear from buyers. There are some very talented and engaged professionals working on these homes but not everyone. It becomes about opinion rather than fact.

Note: I have not posted one comment because it was rather disparaging in comparing grow ops to a segment of our population. If the poster wishes to rephrase please do so and I will approve it.
Andrew on Mar 12, 2014 3:29 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this information!I really like this blog.
Monika Furtado on Apr 18, 2014 8:58 PM
The Alberta Health Services website has moved around some of the information.

To view some additional resource links please go to http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/8302.asp and click on the section for 'Rental Housing and Grow Ops'.
Monika Furtado on May 7, 2014 5:05 PM
The Grow Op Free Alberta Final Recommendations report was just released by the Department of Justice and Solicitor General.
http://justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/safe/Publications%20Library%20%20Safe%20Communities%20Secretariat/GrowOpFreeAlbertaFinalRecReport.aspx
Joe penney on Jan 25, 2015 5:36 PM
Hi I do not agree with your comments. Mold is caused my moisture or water.when a new home is built it is exposed to rain, moisture, snow and dirt. I bought a former grow op that was fully gutted was cleaned by a pro company from top to bottom. I rebuilt the house myself and the interior has not been exposed to the outside elements. There for my house is cleaner than and more likely not to have mold that a new one bening built. By the way I live in this house and have never had a problem. Understanding that everyone has an opinion and without scientific research it is just an opinion.
Joe
Eden Wong on May 12, 2015 12:50 AM
One question...

1.) You say that when Alberta Health discovers a grow-op that there's a caveat on the Title, but when the home is remediated the caveat is removed.

2.) It appears that Alberta Health only publishes grow-up information on their website going back 5 years.

So, is it impossible to confirm whether a home was a grow-op if it was remediated more than 5 years ago?

Thanks. Great blog!
Monika Furtado on May 12, 2015 9:53 AM
hi Eden,
Although the details are not on the public sites, the historical details remain with the property and on historical title search. The lenders and underwriter (CMHC and Genworth) also search in detail as well as insurance companies if the grow op was found by police. One CMHC rep at a presentation I attended once noted that the history actually remains with the lot and not just the house but I'm not sure what that would mean on approval of mortgage for a new structure built on a lot where a grow op was torn down.

As a buyer if you have a concern then ask your Realtor the question directly so they search history on a property you wish to purchase.

As a seller, you most likely will be directly asked and many offers come with a grow op disclosure form so there's just no way to hide this one.

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