Imagine moving into the home of your dreams, getting settled into your new space and community, then watching as your family suddenly develops all manner of health issues. Turns out, your home was previously used as a meth lab. And you will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove the chemicals that have now seeped into the walls and are making your family sick.
Sound like a nightmare? It was for one Washington State family who chose to tear down their house and rebuild rather than pay the $90,000 it would have cost to clear the house of chemicals, reports the New York Daily News.
Former meth labs that are now owned by unknowing families dot the United States, the story says. And while the laws for disclosure vary from state to state, there seems to be little recourse for the new homeowners, aside from rebuilding on their own dime.
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So the question is, can a similar situation happen here, in Canada?
Pierre Leduc, spokesperson for the Canadian Real Estate Association, says it's not likely.
"The real estate industry is something that's regulated at the provincial level, so there's no overarching federal statute regarding that," he explains. "Every province has varying degrees of disclosure so if the property was ever used as a grow op or a meth lab, this is something that the vendor absolutely has to declare."
He explains that while the seller of a house is legally obligated to disclose if the home had been used previously as a grow-op or meth lab, this is only true if the home buyer asks the question. He reminds homebuyers to always inquire about a home's past when considering a new purchase.
Richard Silver, out-going president of the Toronto Real Estate Board and an active realtor, takes it one step further. He says a homebuyer can include a clause in the Purchase of Sale agreement that states to the best knowledge of the seller, the house has never been used for the growth and manufacture of illegal substances.
He also advises potential homebuyers to do a bit of snooping around the neighbourhood in which they're thinking of buying.
"I might want to check with the neighbours beforehand, before I even buy, and knock on the door and say, 'Do you know anything about this house?'" he says. "And obviously, you may find that certain areas will have a propensity for these kind of properties."
Plus, Silver advises all homebuyers to have a proper inspection done of the home before signing off on anything. Mould can be an indicator the house was previously used as a grow-op.
"Growing something inside a home will use a lot of electricity and a lot of moisture," he says. "And a lot of moisture is going to produce mould. Because once it starts growing, it will continue."
The RCMP recently launched a national registry of properties they've busted for being grow-ops or meth labs. To see if your home has been registered, click here. For clues you might be living in a meth lab, click here.
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