When asked about a potential viewing of the property at 32 Leyton Avenue, what surely must be one of the cheapest houses for sale in Toronto, realtor Peter Leung chuckled knowingly. “It’s not a regular house,” he warned, though Torontoist could tell from his tone that he suspected we already knew why. Still, he proceeded: “That house was used illegally for the use of growing marijuana.”
This wasn’t news to us, thanks to real estate regulations that mandate marketing transparency in the sale of former grow-op houses. But, because of these regulations, Leung was required to tell us anyway—even though we’d already encountered the rather blunt “No showing of this property—previous grow house” caption under the property’s general description online. According to a Canadian Real Estate Association realtors’ ethics guide [PDF], found at schumacherrealty.com:
Sellers (and therefore listing agents) are obligated to disclose that a property was a grow-op when: 1. There is an actual material latent defect of which the vendor knows or ought to know, or; 2. The buyer asks a specific question or expresses a specific concern, or; 3. The agreement of purchase and sale contains representations that the property was not used as a grow-op or for criminal activities, or; 4.There is some statutory or regulatory requirement that this disclosure be made. If none of the above criteria are met, there is likely no obligation to disclose the fact that the property was a grow-op. Note, however, that provincial regulations and Codes of Ethics may impose a higher obligation of disclosure on a REALTOR®. Under these circumstances, it is important that the listing agent clearly explain to the sellers that while they may have no legal obligation to disclose, the listing agent does have such an obligation.
While the listed criteria may initially seem rife with loopholes, Leung pointed out that houses with a history of illicit gardening are almost always accompanied by the kinds of “material latent defect[s]” realtors are required to disclose. While mould from elevated moisture levels is the most common of these, the Real Estate Council of Ontario lists “Unusual or modified wiring on the exterior of the house;” “Patterns of screw holes on the walls;” and—our favourite—“Denting on front doors (from police ramming the door),” as among the “Top Ten” telltale signs that a home may have been used as a grow-op [PDF].
While Leung did not reveal which of these trademark defects could be expected by potential buyers of the house at 32 Leyton Avenue, he seems unfazed by the property’s lurid past. “It will be sold eventually,” he says cheerfully, noting that some buyers will specifically seek out these horticultural hotspots of yore. After all, at bargain barrel prices, former grow-op houses are a renovator’s dream.
Thanks to reader Stella for the tip.