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Realtors want protection from former drug homes

Imagine moving into your just-purchased home only to find out at the first block party the previous owners cooked meth in the kitchen and grew marijuana in the basement.

The Manitoba Real Estate Association has heard a growing number of such stories, and it's calling on the province to help put an end to them.

MREA spokesman Lorne Weiss said Realtors have an obligation to inform potential buyers about any defects a particular property may have, but the Winnipeg Police Service only tracks information about houses involved in the drug trade for a year. In addition, there is no standard for what qualifies as a full-fledged drug operation.

"What's a grow-op? Is it six plants? Eighteen plants? What classification is a house where a university student has two plants in their bedroom and somebody phones in a tip?" he said.

Weiss said he'd like the government to provide a public registry where people can go online and research possible drug involvement in houses they're looking to buy. Houses that have been used as grow-ops are prone to mould, toxic residues and gases. Some homes have undergone dangerous structural, wiring or mechanical changes to accommodate the drug production. There are also unknown health risks associated with chemical-drug production sites, which are being discovered in growing numbers across the province and for which no standards exist to clean them up and make them safe to live in, Weiss said.

As well, there's nothing to prevent undesirables who dealt with the previous owners from showing up on the doorstep -- not knowing there's a new owner -- wanting to do business or collect on a debt.

Weiss pointed to the example in Alberta, which appointed its assistant minister of justice to come up with a report including 37 recommendations all of which were accomplished in three months.

Manitoba government spokeswoman Rachel Morgan said officials are looking forward to meeting with the MREA to discuss its ideas.

"We are going to take a serious look at everything they bring to the table. We've got the legislation in place and we're going to be developing regulations. We want to do that with input from the MREA," Morgan said.

"We want to see what other jurisdictions are doing and what works."

Weiss said Realtors can only provide the best information that's available to them but once a house with defects has been sold, the new owners have no recourse, other than to live there or potentially sell it at a loss.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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