“OREA Renews Call For Grow-Op Registry”


5 minute read

February 6, 2013

Is a grow-op registry a great idea?  Will it help consumers?  Yes, and yes.

But it won’t be easy to implement, and I already see massive logistical problems…

“OREA Renews Call For Grow-Op Registry”
REM – February 2013

Ninety-six per cent of Ottawa residents agree they want to know if the home they’re planning on purchasing was formerly used as a marijuana grow-op (MGO) or clandestine drug lab, according to a study by Ipsos Reid for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

The poll found that almost one in four (24 per cent) of Ottawans report seeing or knowing of homes in their neighbourhood that have been used as MGOs or drug labs.

“The prevalence of these homes in Ottawa is quite frankly, alarming,” says Pat Verge, an Ottawa area Realtor and member of OREA’s Board of Directors. “Homes used as grow ops and/or clandestine labs pose significant health and safety risks to individuals, families, and communities all over the province.”

Locally, the City of Ottawa approved a recent bylaw regarding the prohibition, inspection and remediation of former marijuana grow-ops. The bylaw mandates the registration of work orders on the title of a property used as a former grow op.

The bylaw would allow home buyers to find out if the property was a former MGO by doing a title search before they complete the purchase.

Verge says: “Eighty eight per cent of Ontarians support the creation of a province-wide registry of former MGOs and clandestine labs. As consumers they have the right to know anything and everything about the home that they are planning on purchasing – especially when not knowing could put themselves and their family at serious risk.”

Exposure to mould and toxins associated with MGOs and clandestine drug labs can cause serious health problems, including allergic (immunological) reactions, toxic effects and infection.

Toronto Public Health says that MGOs are distinct from typical types of premises contaminated with mould in that they have been used for criminal activities that may have resulted in the creation of environmental hazards, as well as electrical and structural hazards.

The potential presence of known hazardous, toxic and flammable substances associated with clandestine labs presents an immediate and continuing risk to anyone exposed to these substances, says Toronto Public Health.



The idea of a grow-op registry is a good one, and I think consumers would undoubtedly benefit from it.

But I see some problems in its implementation, maintenance, and ultimately the fallout from its existence.

Here are the major issues as I see them:

1) Definition of “Grow Op”

A few months ago, I was doing a termite inspection on a home in Riverdale that my clients were making a bid for.

While the termite instructor wandered about, I made small talk with the seller.  I asked him if he ever used the 3rd floor balcony, and to my surprise, he said, “Only to grow pot.”

I have nothing against recreational marijuana users, and to perfectly honest, I don’t care if somebody grows a plant on their balcony.  But I was SHOCKED that the seller would say this on the morning of “offer day” as he was expecting multiple offers on a $1 Million home!

So what constitutes a “grow operative?”  What if I had inserted a clause into our offer that said, “The Seller hereby acknowledges that the premises has never been used as a grow-operative”?  Could I have called his bluff?  Would he be committing fraud?

What is a grow-op?

What kind of drugs?  How many plants?  What kind of time period?

Is a guy growing one plant in jeopardy of having his house added to the “Grow Op Registry?”

What about a guy growing two plants?  Or ten plants?

What is a grow-op?

Well, 230 King Street East, #222 was a grow-op!  The girl who lived there in 2010 was busted with SIXTY marijuana plants in an elaborate hydroponic setup in her bedroom.  Of course, when the unit was sold, I assume no representation was made by the seller, but isn’t that exaclty why we need a “Grow Op Registry” in the first place?

So if sixty plants is a grow-op, and one plant isn’t, then where is the line drawn?  And more importantly:whodraws it?

2) Governance

Who is going to monitor the registry?

We know it will be some form of government, but will it be one person?  A group?

Will they or he/she be responsible for one city, one province, or the whole country?

Where do they draw the boundaries?

Is each city, county, or town responsible for their own Grow-Op Registry?

Who pays for this?  Taxpayers?  How many jobs will this create?

What are their duties?  How many people are required?  How many hours per week?

I think you get the drift.  Municipal politics in Toronto has never been more embarassing, so imagine if every city was now required to create and monitor a Grow-Op Registry?  Rob & Doug to the rescue!

3) Accuracy, Authenticity, Consistency

As the Grow-Op Registry gains momentum and becomes something that is counted on by buyers, it won’t be long before sellers of suspicious properties count on the lack of any “registration” of their property as a way of showing buyers that there is nothing to fear.

It can work both ways.

At what point will consumers assume that a certain percentage of grow-ops have been registered?

What good is a registry if it only identifies one out of every thousand grow-ops?  I guess it’s important, in case that one house goes on the market, but how much would consumers be able to rely upon this registry?

And what level of consistency should they expect?  If 1,000 properties are registered in 2014, and then 200 in 2015, does that mean that marijuana growing is down by 80%?  Or does that just mean that the folks at the registry office were taking more time off that year?

4) Legal Ramifications

Here’s a situation…

What if there was a marijuana grow-op at 123 Smith Street, and the house was sold – with full disclosure, and then torn down to the ground. What then?

If a new house was built on the grounds where the old house once stood, would 123 Smith Street still appear in the Grow-Op Registry?

That wouldn’t be fair, would it?

Would there be an application process to remove a house from the Registry? Who would oversee this? What if the application was denied?

Well, then it would produce the single greatest and most lucrative word in the legal dictionary: litigation.

I can just see how many people would object to having their home(s) listed in a Grow-Op Registry, no matter who oversees the registry.


In the end, I think it’s a fantastic idea, but one that’s all too simple to be any good.

I’ve heard about a Grow-Op Registry a dozen times in the last decade, but it’s never been put into place, and I think it would take a lot of people a heckuva lot of time to implement one effectively!

If I can rattle off the four issues above in a half-hour, just think of how many more issues could arise.

Now, how about that Long Gun Registry, eh?

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Ralph Cramdown

    at 8:20 am

    I’m of two minds on this issue as well. First, I have to say that realtors clamouring for an imposed solution strikes me as passing the buck — I’d expect a good agent to find out whether a house was a grow-op (Google, calling the local constabulary…) but, come the registry, it’ll just be another thing they’ll point their clients to, maybe, and not take responsibility for themselves.

    Second, I don’t know whether the industry has thought through the ramifications of placing what is essentially a permanent stigma on the title of some properties. This is going to overwhelmingly affect landlords as an extra, uninsurable risk. Remediation easily runs five figures but, even if they do everything right, the property will likely still sell at a five figure discount. My prediction is that remediation programs will be developed as well, with certified (mandatory?) remediation specialist contractors and — hey presto — suddenly the bill will be six figures instead of five, but with a pretty frameable certificate of remediation provided.

    Then you’ll be arguing with the appraiser again: On your deal for a pristine, never smoked-in bungalow, one of his comps will be an eight year old grow-op from down the block which sold last month.

    Much resale Toronto real estate is a cesspool of badly, illegally renovated houses with unsafe and substandard wiring, plumbing, insulation and structure. Better, more thorough inspections, disclosure and building permit enforcement would benefit all buyers, but a grow-op registry only addresses a small fraction of this general problem.

    Buyers do deserve as much information as they can get, so I can’t really disagree with a registry, but these problems aren’t minor.

    1. David Fleming

      at 10:28 am

      @ Ralph

      Great insight, I totally agree.

      The idea of a “stigma” is exactly what I was getting at in Point #4, which of course, got cut off when I went to post this! Have a look now…

  2. randy

    at 2:16 pm

    In BC there is the property disclosure statement form that is filled out and question 4a is “Are you aware if the premises have been used as a marijuana grow operation or to manufacture illegal drugs?”

    We made an accepted offer on a home we really liked then got the property disclosure statement and the seller indicated that there was marijuana grown LEGALLY on the property in the garage WITH HEALTH CANADA APPROVAL. As far as the question is concerned there is no difference between permitted and unpermitted. For that matter what is the deffiniton of a grow op? We pulled out cause now the property is stigmatized our agent even agreed after some debate and once he looked into it. You will have a hard time getting insurance, if fact this lady’s insurance company cancelled her coverage once they found out!! And the big banks wont lend on them meaning private lenders and higher costs. So now you have a property where you are waiting for a cash buyer and your price has to be discounted. With sales softening that’s not good. Stigmatized.

    We heard latter that the people that made the next offer within three days of us walking ended up not being able to get financing for it.

    Once question 4a is answered yes the only way off that form is for the property to be sold without the question answered such as foreclosure or as is, and then buyers being ignorant of it’s past history.

    I could go on and on about this topic but if there is a registry created you want to make sure it is well defined!!

    Here is something the RCMP are doing.


  3. rene brisebois

    at 4:09 pm

    While the termite “instructor”?? wandered about,


    Still not paying attention to detail, eh?

    1. ScottyP

      at 9:13 am

      This when your poorly-written cheap shot has nothing to do with attention to detail.

      1. Dr Tongue

        at 2:44 pm

        Scotty got sand in his mangina?

        1. ScottyP

          at 10:30 am

          Nothing that you can’t reach, Dr. Tongue.

  4. Paully

    at 4:12 pm

    Years ago we looked at a house that had a UFFI disclosure on the listing. As luck would have it, we lost out to a higher bidder. The house still sold for many thousands less than other non-UFFI houses on the same street. Interestingly, after researching UFFI extensively, we found that it is still commonly used without problem in many parts of the world. It is a safe, effective retrofit insulation. But houses here in Canada with UFFI are still stigmatized. In fact, if you hire a specialist to completely remove the UFFI, I understand that the UFFI declaration is still required on the listing, even though the UFFI is 100% certified removed. New carpeting releases more formaldehyde than any old UFFI installation, but we don’t have to include a safety disclosure for a house with new carpeting.

  5. PMaitland

    at 5:26 pm

    In Toronto, the Building Dept. will declare a building with a grow-op as unsafe for occupancy when they are discovered by police.

    Since the order declares the building is unsafe is registered on the title, it makes it hard to unload the property on an unsuspecting purchaser.

    Once the owner get a permit and completes the remediation, the order is then complied with and is removed from the property’s title.

    This seems to be a long process, and probably is expensive for the owner, but its better than a registry funded by taxpayers.

  6. cassidy calhoon

    at 10:57 pm

    Creative piece ! I am thankful for the points , Does anyone know if my assistant might be able to locate a sample 2010 NY DOS-1736-A example to edit ?

  7. sibyl auten

    at 2:28 am

    Nice work! Thanks for the info, you made it easy to understand. I am sure at least once in your life you had to fill out a form. I use a simple service https://goo.gl/4HYPT9 for forms filling. It definitely makes my life easier!

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