The Legacy of Grow Ops (brought to you by

The legalization of marijuana may soon make grow op damaged homes a memory. Legalization will bring marijuana production out of houses and into commercial facilities. While the day of damaged homes and plummeting property value may be nigh, we should not get ahead of ourselves. The impact of a grow op can affect a home for as long as twenty years without successful diagnosis and mitigation. 

Different jurisdictions have a wide array of laws when it comes to disclosure about things like grow ops. In Alberta I have often heard it said that both a realtor and a seller are obligated to disclose a grow up. That, however, isn’t accurate. In Alberta a realtor is obligated to disclose any material defect. A material defect is defined as “a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people.” Therefore, a house that has been diagnosed, mitigated and passed a provincial inspection does not have a material defect. In fact, a seller can even have the remediation order removed from the property’s record. Disclosure is not mandated by the government, however most realtors have their client’s best interest at heart and most brokerages have a policy of full disclosure when it comes to grow ops. 

Disclosure is only an issue if a grow op has been busted and the authorities have been involved. What if the house was a rental and the owner of the property never knew? If the tenants who set up the grow op moved out and cleaned it up, a potential buyer with an untrained eye might never know. But what could they be in for down the road?

In my previous career as a carpenter and contractor I had some experience doing mitigation and renovation of grow ops for banks and mortgage companies. In that capacity I saw some frightening things. When people think grow op they automatically think mold. And while this is often a major issue there are other issues people may not consider. I have seen holes chipped through the foundation wall, 16 inches in diameter to access the underground power and water feed. The power spliced into these connections is never done safely, sometimes held together with as little as green masking tape. We are talking about 240 volts and virtually unfused amps! The water connections are not connected properly either and massive leaks are a regular thing. When they are finished with the house, the perpetrators can build frost walls over the holes in the foundation, insulate and drywall and how would you ever know? They may or may not patch the hole with concrete. Behind that hole may be a barely insulated live and quite deadly power feed or a leaky water main or even both. I have seen joists cut through, trusses cut through, posts and beams cut through. Again, if this grow op isn’t discovered these things may just get covered up.
On the right you will find 2011 maps of confirmed grow ops in Calgary, Edmonton, and Rural Alberta. These are 6 year old maps and the most current ones I could access. While you can see it is an issue everywhere for whatever reason my home city of Calgary is by far the favourite here in Alberta. An average of 108 grow ops are confirmed in Calgary annually. That is more than double Edmonton’s average. So, have a look at the attached map and add 108 green dots for every year between 2011. Scary, yes? Now for every confirmed operation there are an estimated 4 unconfirmed So for every green dot we now can add 4 more to represent those unconfirmed ones! That is the scale of the problem and that is why making sure the home inspector you hire or you recommend for your clients must have more than an education in grow op awareness, they need solid experience in remediation. The legacy of marijuana prohibition in the real estate industry will stretch well beyond the end of prohibition. For how long and what the total cost might be, we can only make an educated guess. 

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