Renting Well Blog

Oh No! I Have A Marijuana Grow-Op In My Rental Property!

I don’t really, but what better way to get your attention?

As landlords, most of us have heard of that old urban myth. You know the one… a guy who knows a guy, who’s a landlord, who suddenly finds out that the perfectly nice couple who had been renting out the house were in fact running a marijuana grow-op. There are variations on the story as well, sometimes it’s a crack house, sometimes it’s a meth lab. This story — in all it’s incantations — has popped into our brains in some way, shape, or form at some point in time.

This is the reality…

The RCMP estimate that there are about 50,000 grow-ops in Canada. They’re in single family homes, basement apartments, and even in Toronto high rise condos. Most landlords are probably oblivious to this fact — and even more alarmingly — they’re often oblivious to the massive insurance pickle they’ll find themselves in if they end up renting to someone who decides to make their unit a reefer lab.

Read this great article by Ottawa lawyer Howard Yegendorf. Landlords need to be aware that the majority of liability insurance policies have a specific exclusion for damage caused by your tenant’s marijuana grow-op. That’s just the insurance problem. There’s also the criminal enterprise element. Seriously. Have you seen Oliver Stone’s Savages? Property management is hard enough. Having something comparable to a Breaking Bad season in real life is the absolute last thing you or any other tenants in the property need.

So what do you do? Well, here are some tips:

  • Perform tenant screenings. There’s a variety of other background checks your can perform as well, such as a criminal record check and an employment verification.
  • Have an airtight lease that clearly articulates the expectation of no criminal activity on the premises and that the tenant will provide reasonable access to the landlord.
  • Visit and inspect your property regularly. Remember – landlords are allowed to visit their units for routine inspections with proper notice given. You’d be surprised how many don’t do this. Get into this habit.
  • Talk to your tenants. Communicate with them. That’s always a good way to get a sense of what’s going on at the property. If you’re hearing about a lot of suspicious people coming and going constantly that could be a tip worth keeping in the front of your mind. Grow-ops have a tendency to have a lot of runners coming in and out of the place.

Here’s some tips on what to look out for:

  • Look out for any hydro alteration or electrical bypass. Things like holes in the foundation that weren’t there before should be treated as suspicious.
  • Did the renter spend a lot of time viewing the breaker-boxes, wiring and plumbing fixtures? Were they asking a lot of questions about power distribution in the property? Believe it or not, this happens. More often than not, illegal growers attempt to steal hydro by altering how it comes into the unit.
  • Be weary if tenants want to pay their rent in cash. Seriously. Who pays in cash? People who deal with a lot of cash, like servers, even have bank accounts.
  • If a tenant discloses that they plan to have the utilities registered under a different name, that’s weird.
  • Evasive answers and vague information on a rental application. This should set off a flag anyways.
  • Condensation or darkened windows in the unit. Cardboard and blacked out windows foster an effective grow environment. That’s not normal.
  • Tenant unloads copper and/or PVC pipe, soil, halogen lamps, large amounts of black plastic aluminum ducting, and fans.

Have you ever had a marijuana grow-op in one of your rental properties? Know anyone who has? Share your thoughts with us.

Author: Chris Saracino

Chris is a co-founder of Renting Well and heads up our marketing and communication efforts. He's also the landlord of two buildings and 8 units in Ottawa, Ontario.

Comments

  1. I’m not the landlord I’m the tenant.Going on 10 months of this.

    If the building holds 3 units. The middle unit is humming at 10pm every night in both closets. The tenants under them have had a humid and heat problem in the apartment even running a air conditioner and air exchange for the apartment.( No change)Always feeling tired, head aches,eyes burning and sore throat. Month 10 starting so I have decided to block the bedroom air vents are plugged from the bedroom and now the apartment stays cool. On the same day vents were closed the apartment upstairs became hot and the drywall nails in ceiling have started to pop out more than the bathroom… I have complained to landlords but nothing done, also reported it to local police, they seem not to bother, or give personal opinions what the smell is.Now the man upstairs has become very aggressive towards my family for putting complaints. What should the tenant do to regain her health and her families health? Also our safety for it seems to be a family organization?

    I have 2 suggestion on to protection of your renting units.
    1. Place humidity counters in your walls connected to a central for you to keep track of heat and humidity. This way you are able to know of a problem. You will be able to check and act on any mold,water lines leaking and grow operations problems.
    2. Place several piping tubes with several small holes along it,place up the inner wall from basement to roof. Have hose hook ups so you can place a humidity counter to it for several days it records each day and spikes of humidity,heat differences and this will allow you keep an eye on things. Also these tubes can be placed inside apartments as vents to also do testing for air quality control. Tenants don’t need to know all the compounds of pesticides,chemicals,humidity,etc.They just need to know that it is for air quality.
    Just that a law should be passed so this is the new regulation for better landlords, and should be required by-law to have this testing done on regular bases or if tenant complains. Also to be filed with a government system to keep track just in case of unseen issues that may not come to light right away. Everyone will be happy and some wont know the real truth behind it. LOL

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