With the full legalization of recreational cannabis just months away, Canada’s real-estate industry is calling for a moratorium on growing recreational weed at home, warning that allowing cultivation of up to four marijuana plants per household could undermine property values and further crimp the rental market.
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), which represents more than 125,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople, argues that even the seemingly small number of plants allowed under Bill C-45 could still produce as much as five kilograms of cannabis a year. The CREA is concerned about potential property damage and effects on home prices.
“We’ve heard from homeowners and tenants across the country who are worried about living beside grow-ops,” CREA president Barb Saukkau said to a recent Senate committee hearing in Ottawa. “What does this do to their home value?” “Will this increase their rent? How safe will their kids be? Will their quality of life diminish because of the prevalence of drugs in their neighbourhood?”
Quebec and several other provinces have stated they do not want Canadians to grow marijuana at home, and have been lobbying for the legislation to be very clear on that point.
Landlords uneasy about impact of new legislation
The association cited the threats of fire and crime as reasons to amend the new legislation. It also mentioned the possibility of mould, spores, and pesticides in the home, which can affect air quality and health particularly in multi-unit dwellings that share air circulation.
Landlords across the country are scrambling to address the risk of tenants growing plants in their apartments, CREA CEO Michael Bourque told the committee, with some converting units to condominiums, which allows them to more easily impose stricter regulations on home growing. However, this could push out low-income tenants and burden already-constrained rental markets in the country’s big cities, he warned.
Several condo boards in Ontario have already implemented tough bans on pot cultivation to avoid some of the pitfalls that come from cultivation in a shared space. Cannabis requires warm conditions that could lead to mould and moisture damage on floorboards or walls if grown in-home. As well, heavy duty lighting systems can increase hydro usage and, if utilities are included in a building’s maintenance fees, tenants and owners can see electricity costs increase.
Former grow-ops much harder to sell
The Ontario Real Estate Association is equally concerned about the changing landscape around recreational marijuana, recently insisting on more protection for home buyers who may unwittingly get stuck with a former grow-op. The association wants to ensure all in-home cannabis operations are inspected by a building inspector, and that municipalities be required to register any remediation work completed on a property.
It also recommends that home owners growing cannabis in a condo or apartment unit that is 1,000-square-feet or smaller be limited to one plant, down from four.
In the meantime, the group is urging home buyers currently in the market to be on the lookout for several warning signs, including mould, warped or rotting wooden structures, additional roof vents, freshly painted window frames, and foundations that have been breached to modify wiring around the hydro meter.