You may think you’ve found the perfect tenant. They want to pay his rent in cash, don’t care about the amenities in the home, and even offer to deliver the rent to you each month, so you needn’t bother coming by the house. Everything you ever wanted, right? Wrong. All of these things should start warning bells clanging.
Marijuana grow ops in rental properties are a huge problem in many areas across Canada. When someone sets up a grow-op in a residential property, they do incredible damage to the home. So, the perfect solution for them is to rent someone else’s property for their criminal activities.
As marijuana grow ops are criminal operations, there is a risk of weapons being on the premises. Also, it is common to set up dangerous booby traps to prevent being discovered. Noxious fumes can not only build up inside the home but can also affect neighbouring properties when vented to the outside. The risk of fire is greatly increased when wiring is tampered with, and hydro meters are bypassed. Marijuana plants require a lot of water, resulting in high levels of humidity and mould.
And, as a rule, any criminal and/or intentional damage caused by your tenants is not covered by your insurance. So you could be stuck with a gutted, moldy, unsafe home, or one that has been completely devastated by fire.
So, how can you make sure that your home isn’t going to be destroyed and turned into a grow op by unscrupulous tenants?
Make sure you screen your tenants thoroughly. It’s one thing to have them complete a rental application, but if you don’t follow up, and call their former and current landlords and employers, you could be setting yourself up for trouble.
Do a credit check. If your prospective tenants have a history of always paying their bills late, or worse, not making payments at all, it is quite likely that rent payments will be late or missed, as well.
Make sure they show you proper identification. And record the information.
Let them know that you’ll be doing monthly exterior inspections. And you reserve the right to do interior inspections with the proper notice. Knowing you’re coming by monthly to pick up the rent cheque could prompt unscrupulous tenants to look for a less diligent landlord.
Advise them that you know your neighbours. And let them know that you keep in touch with your neighbours. If they know the neighbours will be keeping a lookout on your behalf, it could be enough to scare away tenants with criminal intentions.
Arrange to be there on the move-in date. This way you can make sure they’re actually moving in, and you can reinforce any special conditions of the rental agreement.
The prospective tenants may unwittingly give you some warning signs. Be wary if:
They want to make cash payments. Often, someone wanting to set up an illegal operation in your home will prefer to pay rent in cash, rather than by cheque. And if they offer you more rent than you’re asking for, consider it a warning sign that something may be fishy.
They give incomplete answers on the application form. If the potential tenant gives you incomplete answers or doesn’t have a phone number, be wary.
They’re more interested in the electrical panel than in the layout of the home. If this is the case, they could be planning how they’re going to alter the wiring to handle several 1000 watt bulbs. Be suspicious.
They are unemployed, yet drive an expensive car. Unless there’s a good reason (like, they won the lotto or got a big inheritance from a grandparent), this could be a good reason to suspect possible criminal activities.
Once your tenants have moved in, regular exterior inspections may reveal a grow-op, hopefully before too much damage is done to your rental property. Signs to look for include:
Windows covered with black plastic, bed sheets, or heavy curtains that are drawn tightly shut, and are pressed up against the windows. Look for excessive condensation on the windows, due to humid air and improper ventilation.
Odours coming from the home, possibly skunk-like or chemical in nature.
Humming noise from fans or other ventilation equipment.
Frequent visitors, often late at night.
Security cameras in the front and back of the home. Grow ops often have extra security in place to protect them from rivals, as well as police.
Bars on the windows.
Garbage or equipment, such as bedding plant pots, discarded potting soil, piping, or wiring lying about the yard.
Hydro meters that have been tampered with.
TV or radio left on at all times.
Flyers piling up in the mailbox.
Signs indicating there is a guard dog on duty.
Lawns left uncared for.
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If your rental property has been turned into a grow op, there will be major expenses involved in rehabilitating the home. Then, if you try to sell it, you could run into problems again. Banks are becoming much pickier when it comes to financing homes that were previously marijuana grow ops.
According to the Vancouver Sun, there are over 2,000 homes in Vancouver that are facing this situation. There is a concern that even if the home has been fully renovated, mould could crop up at some point, due to the history of poor ventilation and high humidity required by the previous grow-op. Some municipalities have stringent rules for remediating a grow op home, but there is no Canada-wide standard.
Marijuana grow-ops can completely destroy your rental property leaving you with a massive repair bill, and often no insurance coverage. Protect yourself from devastating losses before they happen. If you have any other questions, you can always contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933 for more information.
If you discover that a tenant in one of your properties is growing marijuana without a legally obtained, valid license, your best course of action is to contact your local authorities. These professionals will be able to best notify you on what steps to take moving forward and will know the appropriate measures to take in the case of illegal activities being operated in a suite you own.
With laws and cultural perceptions about marijuana changing regularly, it’s quite possible that you’ll encounter a tenant with a valid license to grow the drug for medical purposes. If there are concerns about the overall well being of the suite despite everything being legally sound, you do still have options at your disposal. According to the BC residential tenancy act, there are protections in place to protect landlords in cases where there are severe breaches of the rental agreement, the property is being put at risk, or there is extraordinary damage being caused to the unit. These courses of action may not perfectly suit your needs, however, so you’ll want to explore the act firsthand to better understand your alternatives.
Here are some links that you may find useful:
Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.