Marijuana grow operations in British Columbia have become so pervasive they may soon lead to special disclosures for people selling a house and quicker evictions for suspicious tenants.

How big is the grow-op problem in B.C.? According to provincial Solicitor-General Rich Coleman, police in the Fraser Valley will raid 2,000 to 3,000 grow-ops this year. In neighboring Watcom County in northern Washington State, police deal with less than 15 such cases a year. Police estimate that between 15,000 and 20,000 homes are being used as marijuana grow operations across B.C.’s Lower Mainland. They say that, in some cases, homes formerly used as grow operations are the targets of criminals looking for marijuana.

Coleman has called for a crackdown on the grow-ops, the most visible manifestations of a provincial pot industry that may be worth $15 billion to $20 billion a year.

Realtors and landlords, however, are not waiting for government action, especially since the Provincial Legislature building, itself, was raided by police last month as part of an investigation linked to the drug trade.

Both the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, the two largest such boards in the province, have called for a special vendor disclosure for those wanting to sell their home.

The written disclosure would be mandatory and require that vendors disclose to prospective buyers whether the property has ever been used to grow marijuana, or perhaps even housed a drug lab. (“Meth labs,” used for the manufacture of a speed-like street drug, are also a growing problem in B.C.)

Both real estate boards made a request to the governing B.C. Real Estate Association in December of last year to amend the property condition disclosure statement already used during real estate sales to include the reference to marijuana growing operations.

“This is something that has to be nipped in the bud,” said Vancouver Real Estate Board President Bill Binnie. “Grow-ops are a huge problem. Realtors are very concerned with the health and safety of the community. We want to make sure the buyers of property are getting complete information.”

If a home seller was not truthful in the disclosure, which he/she would be required to sign as part of the contract of sale, it would give the buyer an avenue for legal recourse. Marijuana grow-ops encourage the growth of mold, for instance, and are also a magnet for thieves who break into the homes to rip off growers.

David Herman, president of the B.C. Real Estate Association, said a committee of Realtors and lawyers will carefully study the proposal and its implications during a meeting Feb. 18.

“It’s something we need to address and discuss,” Herman said. If the committee approved the proposal, it could be in place on real estate contracts as early as next year, he added.

Herman noted that residential real estate sales in British Columbia reached an all-time high of $24.2 billion in 2003, or just a bit higher than the illegal pot business.

Meanwhile, British Columbia landlords are applauding new provincial legislation that came in Jan. 1 of this year, which makes it easier to evict tenants who are running a marijuana grow operation. The revised Residential Tenancy Act gives landlords the option of evicting tenants who are engaged in illegal activities that could threaten the property, the residents or neighbors.

Police say it is fairly easy to prevent a tenant starting up a grow operation. By screening prospective tenants and conducting regular inspections of the property, you can virtually eliminate the likelihood of a grow operation being set up in your property

If you suspect or discover a grow-op, do not confront your tenant. Call your local police department.

Frank O’Brien can be reached at fobrien@dccnet.com.

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