Have you ever
wondered why your neighbors never surface from their home, rarely
garbage to pick up, always have the blinds
down or windows covered, come and go at unusual hours and never invite
you over for a barbecue? If this is the case, there is a possibility
you are living beside a grow house. With an estimated 50,000 grow
in Canada, there is growing concern about health, fire, safety, and
structural implications for home buyers. But what risk is there in
owning a grow home?
What is a grow house?
A grow house is
a home that has been converted into a marijuana operation. Larger
homes in quiet areas with unfinished basements are preferred,
although grow houses can exist in any neighborhood.
What are the signs and the risks?
There must be ideal
greenhouse conditions for these operations. The electrical system
is usually altered to power the hydroponic equipment.
Operators may also steal electricity by tapping into the electrical
service before it enters the electrical meter, and bring power into
the house through a hole in the foundation. Additional circuitry is
usually added inside the home to bring electrical power to the equipment,
and operators rarely make sure that these alterations meet electrical
codes. While these modifications can create a hazardous electrical
situation, improvements can be made to ensure the electrical system
remains safe for a potential homebuyer. Holes cut in the
foundation wall can be repaired as well, but if not done properly,
for water leakage remains.
light, ideal temperature, water and nutrients in order to thrive,
and with the heat generated
by hydroponic lighting, a significant amount of humidity is produced
in the process. While humans, animals, and plants need humidity,
too much can cause mould, mildew, and rot to form in the home,
especially in or on exterior surfaces. Often, modifications are made
to help vent the excess humidity to the outdoors and bring in fresh
air from the outside. Fireplaces and chimneys can be used as channels
for removing excess moisture. Structural members such as floor
and ceiling joists are sometimes cut to accommodate additional ductwork.
The structural integrity of the home may be compromised by the
of cut framing members and high humidity. Signs of high humidity
are usually most visible in attic spaces, where the moist air is
dumped. Darkening of attic surfaces is generally a good indicator
that mould and mildew are present.
Mould comes in
many colors and may be visible and distinct. It can also be very
subtle. Surface mould may
be the tip of an iceberg, with considerable mould concealed behind
the wall. In other cases, the mould is only on the surface. The toughest
situation occurs when the mould is not visible. Home inspectors pay
particular attention to intersecting walls and ceilings where air
circulation is poor or areas that have been chronically damp or wet.
The good news
is that many grow houses are in operation for less than a year, which
may not be enough time for mould to thrive and cause serious structural
Look for painted
concrete floors in the basement, and walls that have been painted
white to reflect light. Screw holes and patches are often
visible in the foundation wall where equipment was mounted above the
floor level to avoid any water on the floor. Multiple splices in the
plumbing system may be present to nourish the crop. Chemical odors,
including fertilizers and pesticides are also used, which can create
health hazards through poor indoor air quality.
While it is expected that realtors who are representing sellers or
landlords of these properties should make every effort to ensure that
all parties are notified of the potential issues, a home inspection
can help quantify the severity of these issues. In most cases, with
proper clean-up and some repair, these homes can be lived in without
concern. Unfortunately, insurance companies are also being very cautious
and focusing on reducing loss ratios, not on acquiring business, making
it more difficult to get insurance on high risk homes such as grow
homes. By exercising good judgment and due diligence in obtaining proper
information on the condition of the home, purchasers can rest easy
knowing that with a little tender loving care, the home will provide
the comfort and security they deserve.