Controlled Substance Properties (Grow Operations)
Grow Operations in residential buildings are a public safety problem in Port Coquitlam and throughout Metro Vancouver. Research shows that a house, apartment, or condominium that contains a grow operation is up to 40 times more likely to catch fire than a normal dwelling. Fires in buildings with grow operations pose extreme dangers for neighbours and emergency responders including police, fire, and ambulance.
Grow Operations: the Hazards
Grow Operations are associated with the following safety hazards:
- Fire: High consumption of electricity combined with illegal wiring can lead to serious fires that often spread to neighbouring properties.
- Health: The high temperatures and humidity associated with grow operations lead to the formation of mildew, fungi, and moulds that may be dangerous to human health.
- Structural: The high temperatures and humidity associated with grow operations may cause rot, freezing damage, and other structural problems.
- Electrocution: Electrical bypasses and sub-standard wiring combined with high electrical load can result in dangerous electrical hazards.
- Toxic substances: Fumes from a grow operation can accumulate or be vented to the outside. Chemicals used in a grow operation can accumulate inside the building.
- Violence: The occupiers of a grow operation are more susceptible to violence, extortion, or home invasion.
- Booby traps: Because grow operations are targets for “grow rips”, they are sometimes protected by booby traps. These create further risks for visitors or first responders.
- Children at risk: Children who live in a grow operation are subject to physical dangers and the many health and safety hazards listed here.
Controlled Substance Nuisance Bylaw No. 3602
The City of Port Coquitlam has adopted a Controlled Substance Nuisance Bylaw, which can be viewed here .The bylaw prohibits the use of land and buildings for the production, storage, trade, or barter of controlled substances and requires owners to report such activity to the municipality. It also mandates the remediation of controlled substance properties in order to eliminate health hazards and reduce the risks to first responders, neighbours, and present and future owners and occupiers.
Public Safety Inspection Team
To identify and deal effectively with properties containing unsafe building, plumbing and electrical deficiencies, the City of Port Coquitlam has established a Public Safety Inspection Team. The Public Safety Inspection Team enforces the City’s Controlled Substance Nuisance Bylaw No. 3602, as well as the Fire and Emergency Services Bylaw No. 3562 and the Provincial Fire Services Act. Illegal construction and plumbing are referred to the City’s Permits & Inspections Division, while illegal gas and electrical alterations are referred to the BC Safety Authority.
Costs of Investigation and Enforcement
The full costs of operating the Public Safety Inspection program, including investigation, identification, enforcement, and remediation are charged to the owners of controlled substance properties. Where an investigation and inspection of an address does not identify a controlled substance property, no costs are charged to the owner. Whether or not a controlled substance property declaration is made, any safety hazards identified by the PSI Team are communicated to owners and occupiers.
The Public Safety Inspection Team works primarily from data supplied by BC Hydro identifying properties with abnormally high electrical consumption. However, residents who suspect the presence of a Grow Operation in their neighbourhood may also report the address to one of the responsible agencies.
What to Look For:
- Occupiers are rarely at home
- People come and go at odd hoursConstruction sounds
- Minimal furniture and belongings moved in
- Minimal garbage outside on garbage days
- Little or no outside maintenance
- Pots, fertilizer bags, and potting soil stored outside
- Bright lights that may be on timers
- Condensation on windows
- Windows are covered with blinds or black plastic
- Power surges or brownouts in neighbourhood
- Sounds (humming, fans, trickling water)
- Strange odours (skunk or rotting cabbage)
- Abnormally warm buildings
Who to Call:
If you recognize these signs and suspect a Grow Operation in your neighbourhood, do not investigate. Contact one of the following agencies:
Information for Landlords
Many grow operations are set up in rental properties. Often the buildings are substantially altered or damaged in order to accommodate the wiring and equipment needed for the grow operation. The following information and advice is offered to help landlords protect themselves and their properties:
- Obtain tenant references and follow them up
- Execute a signed tenancy agreement
- Be aware that one cycle of a grow operation requires 3 months to complete
- Exercise your right to regular property inspections – at least every 4 or 5 weeks
- Be suspicious if your tenants suddenly have to move and want to transfer the tenancy to a third party without due process
- Be suspicious if your tenants insist on paying rent in cash
- Be suspicious if your tenants refuse or delay an inspection
- Know the signs of residential grow operations and watch for them
- If a property has been used as a grow operation or clandestine drug laboratory, this information must be disclosed to prospective buyers
All buildings that are declared to be controlled substance properties under the Controlled Substance Nuisance Bylaw No. 3602 are posted DO NOT OCCUPY. Before they can be reoccupied they must be remediated and then certified by a Professional Hygienist as safe to occupy.
Permits & Inspections Division 604.927.5240
Bylaw Services Division 604.927.5440