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The Rise of Grow-Ops: How They Work, Property Damage Caused & How to Avoid Them

by Editor | ezLandlordForms

Successful landlords screen tenants to avoid all kinds of problems: late and missing rent payments, lawsuit-lovers, criminals and simply loud and obnoxious tenants are just a few.  But even savvy landlords may not be expecting tenants to convert their rental unit into a grow-op.  A grow-op is essentially when a tenant uses a rental unit as a greenhouse to grow marijuana and the trend is becoming more popular.  Grow-op operations can destroy rental buildings and the damage is usually not covered by rental property insurance.

Similar to a natural greenhouse, tenants need large amounts of water, light and heat.  Ultraviolet lamps on this scale require massive amounts of electricity, so tenants often bypass the electric meter to get the electricity needed by cutting through walls and sometimes basement floors to access the power without running up the electric bill.

Water must be sprayed throughout the property to supply the plants so tenants will cut holes through floors and walls to pass the water tubing from one room to another, along with the electricity cables to power the heaters and UV lamps.  Walls and floors are destroyed, support beams are cut, water runs on the floors, down the walls and anywhere else it can reach.  Over time the accumulation of moisture will turn the unit into a den for mold and the wood will quickly rot, a process that often requires only months, not years.

The harsh reality for these landlords is that not much can be done to salvage the rental unit.  Landlords are left with tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage that is usually not covered by insurance.  The result is a destroyed property, an unpaid mortgage, and monstrous electric and water bills.  What does these mean for small landlords?  For many it means bankruptcy, and for others it means abandonment of the rental property.

Rental Agreement Breach - Grow-OpsWhat type of tenants run these operations?  Criminal deviants with terrible records?  Think again.  Too often landlords discover that the kind couple with their children, Bob, Sue, and Jane, were actually a cover up for an organized drug operation.  These tenants will be polite, pay rent on time, and never complain about anything.  On the contrary, they will do anything they can to prevent the landlord from entering the rental unit.

To avoid finding themselves in this situation, landlords should make sure their rental agreement details right-of-entry for inspection.  Ottawa attorney Michael Thiele suggests explaining to potential tenants that the landlord has the right to (and will) enter the property to inspect for illegal activity once a month.  “This in itself should motivate the wrong tenants to move on.”   After becoming better acquainted with the tenants and if satisfied that they are not the type to destroy the property, inspecitions can be less frequent.  However, he warns that “Even with the nicest tenants it is imperative that you conduct at least annual maintenance inspections to catch whatever problems may be developing.”

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