One of the side effects of cannabis legalization in Canada could be an exacerbating of the serious problem of remediating homes after a grow-op is dismantled.
In British Columbia, there are currently no provincial regulations laying out how a property should be remediated after it has been used to produce drugs.
Banks and insurance companies are reluctant to provide mortgages or insurance for homes where marijuana was grown because of the negative health and safety risks endemic to grow-ops.
Realtors across the province have been lobbying the provincial government to solve this problem, that in some cases is forcing homeowners into foreclosure.
Local real estate consultant Kim Parley said it’s harder today to get a mortgage for a house that was used to produce drugs than it was 10 years ago. The irony is that if it was an illegal grow-op, it can be easier because there is a paper trail for a bank to follow.
With legal medical marijuana growing licences and now, with the legal right for anyone to grow four plants in a home, the problem is only going to get worse.
“If it has never been busted, it doesn’t have a police report, it doesn’t have a re-occupancy permit,” Parley told The Progress. “If you don’t have any of that stuff, [the home] is essentially unsellable.”
And while the NDP government is yet to step in to fix the problem, a Fraser Valley MLA from the opposition benches is trying.
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness introduced a private member’s bill in the Legislature on May 27 that would task the New Homes Registry, an existing office, with developing remediation standards in consultation with industry for homes formerly used as grow operations.
“Police have estimated that there are 20,000 grow operations in British Columbia, and there will be many more now that cannabis has been legalized,” Throness said in a statement issued via the BC Liberal Caucus. “But because most banks and insurers refuse to provide mortgages and insurance for homes previously used as grow-ops, we risk these homes being left vacant or continuing to be used for illegal activity once these operations cease to exist – more or less permanently excluding them from the market.”
Throness introduced the Homeowner Protection Amendment Act to the legislature on May 27 which, if passed, he says will allow British Columbians to safely and securely purchase homes formerly used as grow operations.
If the law is passed, a homeowner with a house used to grow marijuana would have to hire a licensed home inspector to confirm that a home has been safely and completely remediated according to those standards with the aim of providing assurance to lenders, insurers, sellers, and buyers alike.
Parley called the bill “awesome.”
“It is certainly a step forward,” he said adding that the B.C. Real Estate Association has been lobbying for a standard remediation process like the type outlined by Throness’s bill.
“With the way things currently stand, thousands of homes will be unavailable to buyers because of past and future grow operations in B.C. In the midst of a housing crunch, this is simply unacceptable,” Throness said. “John Horgan needs to take swift action to ensure we are able to safely bring these homes to market.”
The missing player in all of this, however, is the banks and insurance companies themselves. Whether or not they provide mortgages and coverage is up to their own policies and discretion, so whether this bill would change things is unclear.
“At that point we’ve got to make sure the banks find this acceptable,” Parley said. “That’s the big missing piece, and that’s why we almost need to get them involved.”