Manitoba REALTORS® are seeking the help of the province to create a registry that would protect home buyers from unknowingly purchasing a house used in the past for drug production.
The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) formed a special task force with the mandate to investigate the creation of a centralized public registry of all drug production sites in Manitoba.
The registry was one of the task force’s recommendations.
RCMP and local police are collecting information on properties where drug production activity is discovered, but details are scattered in various files and databases and not fully accessible to the public in a clear, up-to-date way.
REALTORS® are required to disclose when a property has been a former drug production site, but without accurate and timely information, doing so is not always possible.
The provincial government has told MREA it will consider the implementation of such a registry.
"We are grateful Premier Greg Selinger has expressed willingness to pursue this issue because it fits with the government’s theme of protecting Manitobans’ most valuable assets,” said Claude Davis, a former president of WinnipegREALTORS® and the chair of MREA’s Grow-ops Task Force.
“We are ready to help move this forward,” he added.
MREA has been actively researching and seeking solutions to create awareness of drug houses in consultation with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), along with similar task forces in other provinces, and with Winnipeg’s Office of the Fire Commissioner.
In a letter sent on April 25, 2014 to Premier Selinger, Justice Minister and Attorney General Andrew Swan, Health Minister Erin Selby, Housing Minister Peter Bjornson and Ron Lemieux, the minister responsible for consumer protection, the REALTOR® group asked for a meeting to discuss a two-step solution:
• The creation of a central registry where all police forces in the province would list properties found to be at-risk as drug production sites.
• The identification of clear remediation standards for all identified properties.
“A drug production site registry is a classic example of good use of public authority to provide standardized information that enables citizens to make informed judgments,” Davis said in the letter.
Davis said the expense of setting up and operating the registry would be modest and could be operated in conjunction with existing data bases.
Police already record information on properties they enter, he added.
There are significants danger associated with drug houses.
Drug production can make a property a health or safety hazard due to the presence of mould, toxic residues, and gases. Some homes have undergone dangerous structural, wiring and/or mechanical changes.
Indoor grow-ops require massive amounts of water and hydro. In order to prevent detection, growers redirect these systems and tamper with meters that measure consumption. It is estimated that the average bypass steals between $1,000 and $1,6000 per month in electricity
Sophisticated indoor drug production sites are found weekly in Winnipeg, and across the province.
According to an information sheet provided by MREA, the majority of drug operations are found in residential neighbourhoods, although some are also found in commercial and industrial areas.
Synthetic drug operations are not found in the stereotypical rundown property, but can be located in upscale single-family and multiple-family homes, motel rooms, campgrounds, mini-storage buildings and vehicles, including rented trucks.
“They (drug operations) can look like any other property, at least at a cursory glance for the untrained eye.”
Sophisticated indoor drug production sites are found weekly in Winnipeg and across the province.
According to the RCMP’s 2012 Marihuana Grow Initiative Annual Report, the average size of grow-ops dismantled by them in 2011-12 involved 727 plants.
MREA said actions are now taking place in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia to move ahead on addressing the public health, safety and consumer protection issues with homes that have been used for drug production.