Consumers need and want to be protected says OREA
Would it surprise you to learn that 93 per cent of Ontarians say they would want to know if a home they were interested in purchasing had been used as a marijuana grow-op (MGO)? That’s the finding of an Ipsos Reid poll done for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
Would it surprise you to learn that one in four Ontarians actually know of homes in their neighbourhood that have been so used?
The basics: plants, fan and lights. Mould contamination can be so bad that buildings are left unfit for habitation.
That’s a lot of MGOs! With that many citizens reporting that they personally know of grow-ops in the neighbourhood, and given that these things are illegal, you’d think the police or some government department must keep a detailed, province-wide registry of them. These places can pose dangers to a person’s health.
But you would be incorrect. And as a member of the OREA board of directors said, referring to the absence of such a province-wide registry of former grow-ops, “The stakes are just too high.”
The health problems that can arise from occupying a former grow-op arise mainly from the presence of moulds and toxins that can contaminate the building. These can include allergic reactions, toxic effects, and infections. There can also be electrical and structural hazards, the legacy of the criminal activities carried on in the building.
Typically the growers by-pass the electrical meter in the building and rig new wiring to power the lights and fans needed to keep the temperature down. A lot of buildings are booby trapped.
“He left it (a fan) on and left the house. And then there was a power shortage. The light came back but the fan didn’t. It overheated and the house burned down.”
Lawyer describing what happened to his client who had a small grow-op in his basement.
It can cost, on average, $40,000 to clean up a former grow-op, according to the Insurance Board of Canada. Some buildings are so badly damaged by mould that they can’t be saved from demolition. If a building can be saved, mould remediation contractors might be called in to make the building habitable again. Some of them are so bad that the remediation people must wear full body protection suits with HEPA filtration masks to protect themselves. A building’s entire HVAC system might have to be replaced if it is contaminated with mould.
The RCMP estimates there are 50,000 illegal grow-ops in Canada. Most of them are in private homes, but fully 15 per cent of them are in commercial or industrial buildings. Some have as many as 30,000 plants.
Not all grow-ops are found in remote homes and abandoned industrial properties. More and more are turning up in condominiums in major urban centres. The manager of one mould remediation company described how growers used the closets in several units in a single condominium building. The cost of renting the condos was a small price compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue the marijuana could bring in.
OREA says we need a province-wide registry of these former grow-ops and says that 88 per cent of Ontarians agree.
Said OREA spokesperson Pat Verge, “Consumers need to know if the home they are planning on purchasing could put themselves and their family at serious risk.”