REALTORS® working to ensure grow homes are safe and healthy

Safe Grow Homes 2018-11-08T19:01:04+00:00

SAFE GROW HOMES

With cannabis now legalized in Canada, people can grow up to four cannabis plants at home.

REALTORS® want to help homeowners and buyers protect their biggest investment, and understand what makes a Safe Grow Home. The more you know about a home, the more prepared you’ll be when it’s time to buy, list, or sell.

“Realtors want clients to have safe homes to choose from and be to able to make informed decisions.”

 –

Hemp leaf displayed by hand with clean background

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

With cannabis now legal, Fraser Valley Realtors want the government to provide more support, guidelines and information for homeowners who want to grow cannabis safely and for buyers who may want to purchase a former grow home.

To protect consumers and their current or future home from any issues that can arise when growing in a residence, we urge the government to carry out these three recommendations.

1. Further define the requirements for growing cannabis safely in homes

While growing cannabis is now legal for residents across the country, there is still a lack of clarity in regards to how to do it right – that is, in a healthy and safe way for both you and your home.

We know that the Canadian and BC governments allow up to four plants to be grown in a home, and that there will not be a height restriction for those plants.

Fraser Valley Realtors don’t want homeowners and purchasers to be left in the dark when it comes to the standard for healthy and safe growing, and are asking the federal and provincial governments for more substantial information to help people make smart choices.

2. Create a province-wide system for maintaining and accessing information on the status of illegal grow homes.

With clarity around what constitutes a legal grow home (four plants or less), we’re asking the province and our municipalities to establish a consistent process for distinguishing illegal ones.

Fraser Valley Realtors believe that it’s important that homebuyers can identify illegal grow homes and drug operations so they can make their purchase with the confidence that it is safe and healthy.

A province-wide registry for identified illegal grow homes, or a shared process across municipalities where the public could check the status of a home for illegal grow activity, would provide homebuyers (and the Realtors who support them) with the right information to make an informed decision before they buy.

If municipalities choose to create local by-laws or rules requiring legal grow homes to have a permit, Realtors ask that these requirements be reasonable and clearly explained, and that any person or Realtor can easily find out the status of any permits.

3. Outline a process whereby unsafe grow homes can be restored to healthy homes.

We’re calling on the BC government to implement province-wide standards to use to restore grow homes to healthy homes. Right now, even if you knew that a home was once a grow home, it’s difficult to determine whether any restoration work eliminated the health and safety risks or simply covered them up. Accepted standards and inspection certifications will provide clarity and comfort. And, ideally, address any lingering concerns for mortgage and insurance providers.

At the end of the day, more safe homes equal more safe homes for consumers to choose from. It’s a win, win!

IS GROWING CANNABIS SAFE?

Whether legal or not, medical or recreational, there are health and safety risks as well as precautions for growing cannabis. Long before the federal government legalized medical marijuana and home growing there were concerns about health and safety risks associated with growing cannabis plants indoors. This was based on experience arising from the large scale (and illegal) production of cannabis and includes:

POTENTIAL HAZARDS OF GROWING CANNABIS

Even though these hazards are serious, they are based on grow-ops of a far larger scale than a few plants, as medical and recreational growing will permit. But we still have to take into account the actions of potential home growers — some who may not be especially ethical, knowledgeable, cautious or careful about growing cannabis at home.

An unsafe grow. Take away two pots and it would be legal, but still unsafe.

For instance:

  • Cannabis is not like a typical houseplant. It is grown for the purpose of harvesting an ongoing crop and has high light, water and nutrient requirements. A single plant could produce moisture equivalent to five to seven house plants.
  • The combination of water and heat can create mold to a degree that it is harmful to the occupants of the home and the grower.
  • Some home growers will hook up wires themselves without the proper knowledge needed to avoid electrocution and fire.
  • The amount of water required for cannabis combined with the improper electrical hookups increases the danger level.
  • A constantly damp room can cause the floor to rot and the cement to get porous.
  • Cannabis growers often use chemicals such as fungicides, insecticides and herbicides on their plants to control disease, insects and weeds but these toxins are dangerous to people and pets.
  • Using these chemicals and/or not containing them properly can contaminate parts of a home and present risks.

Risks to homeowners

As of May this year, no one seems to know how home growing will be monitored, if at all, or whether licenses, registrations or by-law enforcement will be established before legalization comes into effect.  And remediation of former grow homes with mold, water damage, faulty electrical and chemical residues is not standardized even now.

That means homeowners who choose to grow – even legally – are potentially creating risk for themselves because we know that the mere stigma of a grow-op affects a home’s market value.

Until these regulations and standards are in place, Realtors recommend that any homeowner considering a legal grow in their home proceed cautiously. Your home is a significant investment, and if you wish to sell down the road – as most people do – you need to protect your home’s value. This means giving the same thought and care to planning a home grow as you would for any other renovations, updates or maintenance.

Risks to buyers and renters

When growing cannabis plants becomes legal you may never know if it was grown in a property that you want to move into.  Experts say that in most cases four or five plants will not have a significant impact on the health of a home. But that assumes normal plants, normal growing and certain basic and common-sense safety requirements are being met, while growing normal plants in normal growing conditions.

If the seller has made unsafe electrical or structural modifications to the home, created unsafe air conditions in the home due to aggressive growing techniques or is growing more than the legal number of plants, it could impact the safety of your new home. It could even cause hidden defects that don’t become a problem until months or years down the road.

That’s why it’s important for you as a buyer or renter, to learn what you can about a possible home, so that you can make an informed decision for your family and your investment.

 WHAT YOU CAN DO

What can you do to protect yourself? Unless standards are in place, you will have limited access to the information you need to make a decision. Here are some tips on what you can do now.

First off, ensure that the home has not been used for an illegal grow or drug operation. You can look for signs of a grow and if you spot anything suspicious, make sure a thorough home inspection is done. Be sure your Realtor asks direct questions of the seller. If you plan to grow in your new home, find out about any restrictions in strata rules or tenancy agreements.

Nine physical warning signs that a home may have been an unsafe grow home:

  • Modified ductwork that doesn’t seem to make sense
  • Circular holes in floor joists or roof trusses from venting (look for holes that have been patched)
  • Chunks of brickwork on the exterior that have been replaced
  • Brown stains in soffits, created by external venting, or brand-new soffits
  • Stains on basement floors caused by containers that sat unmoved for long periods of time, or stains in laundry tubs
  • Modified wiring and electrical panel. Sometimes, live wires can be in the insulation
  • New plumbing for water supply and drains
  • Foundations and concrete walls cored or breached to get wiring around the hydro meter
  • Warped/rotted wooden structures due to excessive moisture

If you are looking to buy a home, ensure that your REALTOR® contacts the municipality to find out if the home was flagged as an illegal grow home. If it was, find out what kind of remediation work has been completed on the home.

Tax certificates and the title of a home may contain details about bylaw infractions or fines. If a home was identified as a grow home and remediated, a municipality may be able to provide records such as permits and inspection reports. The more you know about a home, the more informed you will be when you make a decision.

Contact information for Fraser Valley municipalities:

City of Abbotsford: www.abbotsford.ca

District of Mission: www.mission.ca

City of Delta: www.delta.ca

City of Langley: www.city.langley.bc.ca

Township of Langley: www.tol.ca

City of Surrey: www.surrey.ca

City of White Rock: www.whiterockcity.ca

Buying a home is the largest investment of your life. Feel confident by working with a Realtor who can help you understand the risks of unsafe cannabis growth, local regulations and the necessary disclosures.

For example, your Realtor can advise you about the Property Disclosure Statement. Someone selling a home is asked to complete this disclosure form and one of the questions on page two under the heading General, A is the following: “Are you aware if the Premises has been used to grow marijuana (other than as permitted by law) or to manufacture illegal substances?”

If the seller answers “Yes,” this is a warning that you need to do more in-depth research on the home to ensure there are no latent defects arising from cannabis growing such as molds, residual chemicals or faulty electrical wiring.

When making an offer or a counter-offer, your Realtor can recommend clauses to protect you from future risks, whether you are buying or selling.

Your Realtor is here to help.

A home inspection is a detailed visual examination of the overall structure, major systems and components of a home. An inspector’s report can give you an indication of a home’s physical condition and any risks they’ve uncovered, helping you to make an informed decision about whether you should move into the home. In BC, home inspectors are licensed by Consumer Protection BC.

As a buyer, you will be able to review strata rules and recent strata meeting minutes before you make an offer. Your Realtor can help you to access these documents. Read them carefully for any rules pertaining to grows, to ensure the rules align with your expectations.

If you live in a condo or apartment building, it’s critical that you check with your landlord or strata council and learn about what’s permitted in your building before growing.

If you’re a landlord yourself, you will legally be allowed to forbid the growth of cannabis in buildings you manage. Make sure that your tenants are aware and fully understand what permission they have when it comes to growing.

Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) was announced on August 11, 2016, and legalized the home-growing, production and cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes, up to a maximum of five plants per household.

This new law required protocols for safe growing and storing of cannabis, which the Canadian government has made available on the Health Canada website.

WHAT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ARE SAYING

Different organizations bring different perspectives on grow homes. Some of these positions underscore the need for standards to ensure homes can be restored to safe and healthy homes. This would help alleviate any stigmas and would help to preserve a home’s value.

 HOW WE GOT HERE

Since 2006, Fraser Valley Realtors have been advocating governments for effective, consistent disclosure and remediation of drug operations such as grow homes.

This is because we believe anyone buying or renting a home should know in advance the state of the home they are moving into. We’re concerned that without a reliable source of information about a home’s past use as a grow home and the state of any remediation, there are risks to future homeowners.

About the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board is an association of 3,524 real estate professionals who live and work in the communities of North Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford, and Mission, British Columbia. The FVREB will mark its 100-year anniversary in 2021. You can visit the Board website at www.fvreb.bc.ca.

CONTACT

Join our effort to ensure safe homes
Write to your representatives in government to share your concerns.

Fraser Valley municipalities:

Contact the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board:

FVREB