Buyers beware: Grow ops hit homes hard

Homes and properties used for marijuana cultivation are a growing problem in the South Cariboo real estate market

Homes and properties used for marijuana cultivation are a growing problem in the South Cariboo real estate market.

House values can plummet and repair costs may skyrocket when the damage from grow ops and other drug houses pass on to unsuspecting buyers.

BC Northern Real Estate Board vice-president Gisela Janzen, also a local realtor, says both real estate agents and sellers are obligated by law to disclose to buyers if they are aware the property has been used as a drug operation.

However, the problem comes when neither knows about it, or, the seller knows, but doesn’t tell the realtor.

“Buyers and realtors have absolutely no access to basic information about whether a property has been used in drug operations, or about remediation of the property.”

Often they list properties where there were no busts, she adds, so there are no records to indicate it’s past use as a grow operation.

“The government has not brought forward any solutions, and we’ve been asking.”

She says provincial legislation is needed to implement a consistent, centralized process for both recording and accessing property history data as well as documented steps for remediation, Janzen explains.

Dampness, rot, mould, pollen, chemical residues, structural warping or boards cut out, electrical hazards, holes drilled through foundations, false walls and even “booby traps” are just some of the pitfalls from drug operations that may lay hidden, unbeknownst to buyers or realtors.

“How do we tell if it was a grow house, especially after it has been renovated and cleaned up? There’s no way to tell.

“And, there’s a lot of hearsay out there about ‘this was a grow op, and that wasn’t,’ but how do we substantiate it if there are no signs?”

Another loophole exists when sellers, some residing far away, have rented, but have never lived in the homes, or banks sell foreclosures, which she notes simply cross out the sections that “don’t apply.”

“It falls back right now on the [individual] who buys the home, and the realtor to do due diligence to investigate and ask the questions. There is no law and no act to follow, and that’s what we need.”

The association is working with the government on the problem, as are all other all member associations under the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), but she says the process has been “very slow.”

“We need answers now, not in years to come. There are no rules or regulations on how to deal with a clean up; there’s no centralized system.”

A province-wide database that can be accessed by all stakeholders, and a confirmed method to assess and remediate any damage, is the BCREA’s goal.

“How do we flag those homes? Does it get labelled, and put on [land] title, until the remediation gets done? Those are the questions that need to be asked.”