Rise of the Grow-Op: Home Inspections Protect HomeBuyers Against Newer Dangers

Rachel in Legal, HomeBuying, In the News

There are many reasons to require a home inspection prior to firming up your real estate transaction.  For most people, buying a home is not just the largest purchase they will ever make, but it is also the place where they will spend most of their time, raise their families and seek refuge from a hectic life.  A home inspection means that a trained professional will help you make the most informed decision you can so that the emotional and financial investment you are about to make is worthwhile.

Once an agreement of purchase and sale is signed (conditional on obtaining a home inspection and a warranty that the property has never been used as a grow operation - ask your lawyer or agent to ensure these clauses are inserted) the home inspector of your choosing will walk through the house, make an assessment and will then typically provide you with a report to keep.

In our HomeBuyers Guide, Realosophy strongly encourages that you insist on a home inspection.  This is increasingly important as a prospective purchaser no longer only has the usual concerns about the condition of the roof, plumbing and electrical.  More and more articles are being written about the proliferation of marijuana grow operations in residential neighborhoods; this problem is not exclusive to Ontario - see the article in the Calgary Herald - some of the highlights include chemicals seeping into the drywall and carpets and the increased risk of mould and electrical damage.  The costs of repairing the damage are estimated at $3,000 to $100,000, depending on the extent of the damage, and those are just financial risks.   There is no real way to quantify the lost quality of life resulting from respiratory problems.  Needless to say, the risks to the unwary purchaser are enormous.   

Your home inspector will be able to identify clues that the home has been used as a grow operation that may not be apparent to the average purchaser or their agent – these properties are usually repainted, nominally repaired and can ‘show’ well.

If you think the risk is minimal, I urge you to read the information obtained by CTV in its investigation into grow operations.  The police information, obtained by filing a Freedom of Information request, reveals a startling list of properties that were ‘busted’.  On his website, prominent real estate lawyer, Bob Aaron, supplies a link to this document that you may want to review (scroll down to 'Toronto Police Services Grow-Op 2003-2006').

In addition to providing an opinion as to whether a home could have been used as a grow operation, this list, obtained from Elements Home Inspection, one Toronto-based home inspection company, provides a neat summary of the items an inspector will be examining on your behalf:

•Roofing - A determination of the material(s) used to clad the roof, their current condition and quality of installation. Flashing, vents and chimneys will also be reviewed.
•Exterior - A thorough examination of the exterior of the house and property, including wall surfaces, gutters and downspouts, windows, landscape grading, walkways, steps, patios and decks.
•Structure - An examination of the foundation and structural materials including appropriateness of the materials, the quality of installation and current condition.
•Electrical - Service size, safety of wiring in the distribution panel, type of wiring used, outlets, switches and fixtures will all be examined.
•Heating/Cooling - The furnace or boiler and air conditioner will be examined to determine its approximate age and present condition. The heat distribution system (ducts and vents or radiators) will be reviewed as well.
•Plumbing - A review of the current state of the plumbing in the house including visible piping, water heater, tubs, showers, sings faucets, drainage and venting.
•Insulation - Where possible, the amount of existing insulation will be determined by a look in the attic. Proper attic ventilation and evidence of current or prior moisture issues will also be assessed.
•Interior - The condition of the interior finishes (walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows) will be assessed.

Your real estate agent may be able to recommend a trusted home inspector for you, alternatively, contact the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors for access to contact information for a home inspector in your area.

Rachel Loizos is an associate lawyer at Sotos LLP in Toronto. She practices in the area of real estate law.

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