Preventing Your Rental Property from Becoming a Grow Op
Monday, September 29, 2014
Grow ops are extremely lucrative businesses in Alberta. Between April 2012 and March 2013, ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) seized approximately 36,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $44 million from grow ops across the province.
Grow ops are a lucrative business in Alberta. Between April 2012 and March 2013, ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) seized approximately 36,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $44 million from grow ops across the province.
A grow op can take place in any building that is owned or rented by persons in the drug trade. The occupants convert the building into an indoor nursery or hydroponics operation to grow marijuana.
Residential rental properties are common targets for grow ops. Marijuana growers use these rental properties to avoid damage to their own properties while producing huge profits for themselves. A grow op can be up and running within 36 hours!
Preventing your property from housing a grow op:
There are several steps that a landlord can take to prevent renting to tenants who may potentially turn your property into a grow op.
- Before renting to a tenant, advise him you have the right to perform a credit check. This will allow you to screen those who have a poor credit rating - and therefore don’t deal with cash.
- Ask the possible tenant for at least three references including previous landlords so you can find out if there were issues with previous properties.
- Include in the rental agreement that you have the right to conduct regular inspections of the property under Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). This may sway the tenant from the idea of turning the property into a grow op. For more information visit http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/landlords_tenants.cfm.
- Talk to your tenants on a regular basis so they know you’re keeping an eye on things at the property.
Signs your rental property is a grow op:
If your tenant has turned your rental property into a grow op, there are several telltale signs:
- The windows are always dark; they are draped or blacked-out, and are often barred to prevent possible theft and gang activity.
- Brownish stains have appeared around the soffit that have begun to leak down the siding.
- There is heavy condensation on the windows from the heat and lack of ventilation.
- In winter, the rooftop is free of snow while surrounding rooftops are snow-covered.
- There are sparse household furnishings inside. Often a façade, such as furniture placed at the front window, is put in place to give neighbours and landlords the impression someone is living there.
- Mould can be seen in the corners of walls and ceilings.
- Electrical meters have been tampered with to prevent suspicion arising from high utility bills.
- Furnaces and hot water tanks have been removed, and ventilation fans blocked off to stop airflow throughout the house, creating hot, muggy growing conditions.
Watch for any mannerism changes that can signal a problem. The tenant may start insisting on paying rent in cash in person rather than by cheque. He may arrange to pay you at a location away from the house so you will not see the condition of the property.
Talk to the neighbours and ask if they have noticed any strange activity around the property. Grow op tenants are rarely seen, and there may be a high level of pedestrian and vehicle traffic at very late hours.
Remediating a grow op:
If your rental property has been turned into a grow op, the remediation process is long and expensive and often not covered by your home insurance. Depending on the size of the home, costs can range upwards of $150,000 to properly remediate the home.
The majority of the damage comes from the set-up of the operation. This includes holes that have been burrowed through the foundation to bypass the electrical metre and blocked vents, which create the mould from the extensive moisture and heat. A complete gut of the property is required to ensure all mould is gone and to prevent it from coming back.
Throughout the remediation process, there are several inspections made by Alberta Health Services (AHS) to ensure the property is livable. Despite the costs and processes, there is still no guarantee that the property is fit for people to live in again.
If Alberta property owners and neighbours stay vigilant and work together with the Alberta police, the problem of grow ops in our province can be controlled. If you suspect a grow op in your rental property, call local police or Crime Stoppers toll-free 1-800-222-8477. Never investigate a potential grow op on your own.