Several years ago, my clients and I viewed a home in an upper middle class neighbourhood that they fell in love with. The house needed some work, in particular the kitchen, but my client was in the kitchen renovation business!! When we went into the basement, I immediately noticed that the floor had just been painted... then when I looked up into the joists, I saw the holes that were drilled all along the length of the house to allow for the electrical wires to feed through. There was also some black mould visible on the joists. Then the light bulb went on!!! This was used as a grow house...
I informed my clients of my suspicions, but told them not to be too alarmed... we can have the house inspected by a certified registered house inspector, and also have environmental testing done, and they could come to a decision based on the outcome of these inspections on whether or not they wanted to proceed. I informed them of the potential dangers and health hazards.
In this instance, it was determined that the grow house was only used for a short period, and there was no permanent damage, and my clients proceeded and bought the property, and are still living there today. Included in the offer documents was a waiver that the Buyers were aware of the situation and still were prepared to proceed.
What is a Marijuana Grow Operation?
Marijuana grow operations can occur in every range of home available, from a detached in a moderately priced neighbourhood, to large homes in a multi million dollar neighbourhood, and even in condo apartments. They can be in homes located in residential, commercial, industrial or rural areas. These homes are usually very well maintained and do not appear out of place, and in fact, look quite ordinary on the outside.
However, the inside of these properties have been modified significantly to accommodate the grow operation, and usually these modifications to the electrical and heating systems are not up to code and not safe. These electrical and plumbing modifications are required in order for the hybrid plants to grow and flourish and produce a high potency marijuana. These modifications make these homes unsafe for human occupancy because of serious hazards from mould, structures that have been compromised, and from chemical residue.
It is therefore very important that you are aware of certain things in the house, that can alert you to the possibility that the property was used for illegal purposes, and that it was used as a grow house. If you suspect the home you are contemplating buying was a grow house, call your local police department... they usually have a list of these properties and can potentially verify your suspicions.
Some things that can possibly identify a grow op.
1. The basement floor has recently been painted (usually battleship grey)
2. Check the joists in the basement where holes have been drilled to allow the wires to feed across the basement
3. Check for condensation around the windows
4. Strange smell or odour coming from the house
5. Unusual number of electrical wires leading from the house
6. Infrequent activity from the occupants who don`t appear to have regular jobs
7. Expensive cars in the driveway
8. Children`s toys left around front yard, but no children are seen
9. House has lights on for very long period of time, and often during the night
10. Unusual number of roof vents
11. Lack of snow on roofs in winter
12. No communication with the neighbours
13. Dark window converings
14. Numerous garden hoses, soil and pots around the house, with garden hoses running from doors or windows
15. On garbage days, there is never any garbage at the curb
16. Appears to be vacant, and yard poorly kept
17. House is usually vacant when listed for sale.
18. Check the previous sold history of the house... if it sold about a year before the current listing date, that could also be a clue.
How to detect a Marijuana grow operation when purchasing a home.
When purchasing a home you suspect may have been used for illegal purposes, it is important to have the home thoroughly inspected. A home inspector can point out certain visible things and can also identify any mould where visible. If you can visibly see mould, then it potentially could also be behind the drywall and spread throughout the house, which can be a serious health hazard leading to long term conditions.
A thorough environmental assessment should also be conducted including spore testing. These comprehensive tests will also identify any hidden pollution and mould levels in the home as well as the air quality.
If you suspect a property is being used as a grow operation, or see a property with many wires that may have bypassed the electrical meter, contact the police in your area. Also, speak with the neighbours to see if they have any knowledge of the prior occupants.
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