What I’ve learned about Grow Ops.

I was a guest on Mark Sutcliffe’s show on Rogers TV last year on a panel talking about grow ops and the new registry that was being proposed. I was the realtor  and there was a home inspector, Rod Clark and an Ottawa policeman whose name I can’t recall.

We had quite an animated discussion about whether a grow op house could ever be properly remediated. I argued that a clearance certificate for occupancy from the city meant that sufficient testing had been done of electrical, air quality etc. to mean it could; Rod Clark  and the policeman  disagreed. They both felt that unless the operation was very small and the damage limited, the house was a write-off.

I recently saw a new listing of a beautiful home that had been a grow op that was remediated. And a few days later, the house across the street from my own home was busted for being one too.

Both of these properties were in nice areas: McKellar Park and Westboro. Which just goes to show that grow ops can be found anywhere. No neighbourhood is immune.

In the case of my neighbour’s property, the elderly owner had moved out. A relative had moved in and turned the house into a grow op. I was suspicious when I noticed that the windows were always covered, and actually told my daughter I thought it might be a grow op, but I didn’t do anything. Now I’m wondering if I should have.

My suspicions were confirmed when the police showed up in several marked and unmarked cars, followed soon after by an Ottawa Hydro truck that dismantled the power at the pole. Then an electrician came and disconnected the panel. As the police operation continued, the windows were finally uncovered. I could see the thick plastic that had been used to cover the inside and keep the humidity high inside the house.

Even after the power was shut off, a light stayed on in the home, which I knew meant that the resident had either tapped into a neighbouring property for supplemental power or had a generator; it turned out it was the neighbouring property whose wiring had been tapped into. (I later heard from a realtor friend of mine that a grow op on her street in Barrhaven was discovered when Hydro shut off power to the block and this house remained lit up.)

The power is shut off because typically, in a grow up, the wiring has been messed with (as in this situation) and is unsafe. But there are other risks too, particularly from mould and structural damage.

Remediation can be expensive. The wiring has to be repaired and often completely replaced. Drywall can be saturated quickly by the amount of humidity created in a grow op, and all the condensation, and that’s why there is often there is a terrible mould problem. Before the home can be occupied, the city requires extensive tests and inspections, including air quality tests.

Sometimes there have been holes cut in walls for electrical and plumbing; any structural issues have to be addressed too before the city will decide the property is fit for occupancy.

The listing I saw had all those clearances. It had been pretty much gutted  but even with all the work that had been done, I could still see where there had been water damage on the refinished floors, and where the ceiling had been patched. It made me wonder if there would be problems later on. It looks like insurers and mortgage companies and banks have those same worries.

What I’ve since learned is that even with the clearance certificates, it can be hard to get financing on a former grow op. (I’m told that BMO and Manulife will finance it, but that’s not a lot of choice.) And although you can get insurance, you have to get it through a wholesaler as the conventional insurance companies won’t cover a former grow up, and you won’t be able to get full coverage.

As I mentioned, there is talk of a registry that would be province-wide. At the moment, however, if you live in Ottawa, there is a police registry that lists all dismantled grow ops. They list the number of plants, how many grams of pot they found, and how many charges were laid. Pretty soon, I expect to see my neighbour’s address on it too.  Buyer beware.

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