Was Your House a Grow-Op? Does it Matter?

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Explore:  Marijuana

A growing problem in the residential real estate market is the resale of homes used for marijuana cultivation. It may be that your potential dream home has been used as a grow-op and what on the surface shows beautifully, may contain underlying problems that could have serious repercussions for a potential buyer.

When a house is used for a grow-op, it undergoes significant renovations that require substantial repairs to correct. Often, the seller only does cosmetic touch-ups to hide the modifications and damage before the house is put on the market.

A registered real estate professional must tell you if he or she knows the house is a former grow-op. Some police forces are maintaining lists that indicate homes that have been used as a grow-op at some point in time. However, it is unlikely that a seller will reveal that a home was a grow-op unless it was busted by police.

Former grow-op houses are plagued by major problems, including:

  • Structural supports can be damaged when ventilation, plumbing and wires are installed;
  • Electrical systems can be significantly compromised, the meter could have been ‘jumped’ and live wires could be hidden behind walls;
  • Plumbing could have been altered to bring water into all of the rooms and there could be hidden water damage as a result;
  • Chimneys, furnace exhaust lines and roof vents may have been repurposed to exhaust hot, humid and smelly air from the home;
  • Humidity and moisture from grow-ops can cause pervasive mould growth, which can lead to serious health problems; and
  • The regular spraying of pesticides and fertilizers may lead to a chemical contamination.

Besides the cost of repairing structural and electrical problems, a former grow-op may require mould remediation. Overall, the costs of repair could potentially approach $100,000. Moreover, it will be difficult to insure a former grow-op house because of the increased risk of fire.

If you are in the market for a resale home, you should be aware of the possibility that the house you are considering may be a former grow-op. One of the best ways to identify a grow-op house is to employ a home inspector, who can identify structural damage and other tell-tale signs of a grow-op. Another option is to include a clause in the offer to purchase whereby the vendor of the property warrants and represents that the property was not used for the growth or manufacture of any illegal substances during their period of ownership, and that to the best of the seller’s knowledge and belief, the use of the property, and the buildings and structures thereon, has never been used for the growth or manufacture of illegal substances. If the vendor refuses to agree to such a clause, walk away.