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Monday, April 01, 2013

Grow-op registry in Ontario would protect home buyers, proponents say

Grow-op registry would protect home buyers, proponents say


TORONTO - Ontario’s realtors are lauding a proposal that would see the creation of a registry listing homes that have been used as grow-ops.
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is throwing its support behind Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod’s second introduction on Thursday of a bill that would see a listing developed to protect unsuspecting home buyers from purchasing houses that have been used as grow-ops or illegal drug labs.
This is MacLeod’s second attempt at seeing such a proposition become reality. The last time the Nepean-Carleton MPP tabled the Clandestine Drug Operation Prevention Act was early in 2011, but an election was called before it could be debated.
OREA’s Matthew Thornton says it remains unclear how many buyers or sellers have been affected in any given year because of grow-ops.
The trick, he said, is to know what you’re buying beforehand.
“A lot of people who unknowingly purchased grow-ops may be reluctant to … get into that kind of stuff (because) they’re worried about the stigmatization of their recent purchase … and that’s why we’ve been pushing this proposal forward,” Thompson said.
“We want to make sure buyers aren’t in that situation in the first place.”
A grow-op house could have any number of problems: Faulty and illegal wiring used to power heat lamps, mould because of the humidity needed to grow plants, and ventilation problems.
Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur said she’s working with her fellow ministers on a solution to this problem.
A home is often a family’s largest expense, so it’s important that the house they buy is free from the problems that stem from this illegal activity, she said.
“Myself, I wouldn’t want to buy a house that I don’t know that there was a grow-op there,” Meilleur said.
But she added any bill that comes forward would need to answer many questions such as how long would a home remain on the registry, especially when the owner may not have been aware of the grow-op.
MacLeod’s proposal for a registry would work like this: If police discover a grow-op, it would be placed on the registry. The house would be repaired and brought up to standard, and then taken off the registry pending an inspection.
The registry would work in conjunction with software that realtors use to access land title documents, Thompson said. So even after the house is removed from the registry, a realtor could still access the home’s history, and would have to disclose it to potential buyers if they feel it would effect their decision to purchase.
“It would give buyers peace of mind that the property … was a former grow-op, but that the work has been done to bring it up to a standard that is going to protect the value of the property moving forward,” Thompson said.
A recent OREA survey found that 93% of Ontarians would want to know if a prospective house had been a grow-op, and 24% reported they had seen or know of homes in their neighbourhood used as marijuana grow-ops.
— With files from Antonella Artuso
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