Marijuana Grow Houses
Grow ops can be found in close proximity to each other, like these ones in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Quebec.
The issue of “Grow-Houses” or “Grow-Op's” has increased significantly in Ontario Over the last four years. In order to develop and maintain a Property book of business that is both profitable and of good quality business, the Underwriting Department has Implemented this exclusion to proactively deal with the increasing burden of such Illegal activity.
A marijuana home grow operation is a house or other building that has been modified to grow marijuana. Marijuana Grow houses have no specific size or location. They can be set up virtually anywhere but residential, rental properties are preferred. In order to make a house suitable for cultivating marijuana, changes are made to the Homes structure. Sophisticated and significant structural changes are made to supply water, light and ventilation to the plants. The modifications along with the after affects of producing marijuana can cause considerable damage to a home, amounting to thousands of dollars in repairs. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, after only ONE successful grow operation the average claim to repair the damage caused to a dwelling is forty one thousand dollars but can be significantly higher, depending on the amount of damage that has been caused.
There are several types of dangers associated with the illegal manufacturing of marijuana. Although there are the obvious Criminal risks associated with the production of Marijuana, there are other risks that must be carefully considered by Insurer's as well. We must analyze our legal responsibilities if operators of such operations are sued, we must consider the state that a dwelling is left in after a grow operation has been completed and we must consider the impact that this type of activity has on area residents and society as a whole.
Crime & Violence
Illegal activity can affect the safety of area residents not only because of the type of activity taking place in the neighborhood but also because of the type of individuals such activity attracts. There is more to be concerned with than just the production of the Marijuana. To protect the distribution and production of marijuana, operators have been known to take defensive measures and set up booby traps. Point of entries have been rigged to cause electrical shocks to anyone entering a dwelling, noxious compounds set up to be released upon entry to a dwelling, jars of nitric acid placed in areas to spill on intruders, and planks of wood and metal parts rigged to detonate a shotgun shell are all examples of what extend operators will go to, to prevent unauthorized entry into the dwelling. There is also the threat of gang related activity taking place, leaving area residents in harms way. These risks pose serious liability concerns for everyone involved.
Electrocution & Fire
In order to provide for the increased light and ventilation required to grow Marijuana, Electrical systems are bypassed and Heating systems are modified. An electrical system in a typical dwelling would not be able to maintain the amount of power required for growing Marijuana without fusing, shorting or power outages. To prevent any interruption in electrical power, Electrical systems and fuses are bypassed and re-connected to the Main feed in the area. Electricity bypasses charging in the ground itself, overloading on the Electrical system and unsafe wiring can cause Fire and Electrocution-potential claims that Insurer's could again be liable for. Due to the modification of Heating and ventilation systems, poisonous-noxious fumes and gases from chemicals used in the growing operation build up inside the house or can be vented out into the neighborhood. Poor ventilation also causes Mold and fungus, which accumulated from condensation and creates serious health hazards for anyone breathing the air.
Houses are modified to suit the needs of the growing operation. Examples of modifications that are required to ensure the success of a grow operation include the removal of walls and floors-which can cause collapse, Electrical and Heating system modifications, as has already been discussed and the installation of watering systems. All of these modifications can have serious impacts on a home's structural integrity and can amount to thousands of dollars in repairs. Mould, spores, water stains, toxins in the air and fixing modified systems require extensive repairs in order to make the house habitable after the growing operation has been shut down. -Again, Homeowners may attempt to put through a Claim for Property Damage caused by the Grow Operation.
There are many concerns that Insurance Companies have with Grow Operations as has been discussed above. Every aspect of a Grow Operation is illegal and Insurance Companies have found themselves liable for Physical Damage claims (repairs to structural damage to the home) or (and more importantly), Liability claims (negligence claim, premises liability claim) that arise out the use of homes for growing or manufacturing, processing or storing of any drug, narcotic or illegal substance.
It is essential to create an awareness of the potential dangers associated with Grow Operations and the possible ramifications to an Insurance provider.
Some things to look for when identifying a Grow Op:
- Residents rarely appear to be at home, and attend the house for brief periods of time (such as a few hours) before leaving. Despite this, radios or televisions may be left on all night, making it sound as if someone is there.
- Visitors behave strangely or visit at odd hours
- Entry to the home is often made through the garage or side/back entrance, to conceal activities
- Windows are boarded or covered up, preventing light from entering the house and concealing activities inside. Bright lights may be seen escaping from windows, and the windows may have a layer of condensation on them. Even though the windows are always closed, air conditioners never run
- Equipment used in the growing operation (such as large fans, lights, plastic plant containers and other items) is carried into the home
- Sounds of construction or electrical humming from equipment may be heard
- Hydro meters are tampered with, and there are signs of digging or disturbance around the outside hydro box. There may be localized surges and decreases in power
- Strange odours are coming from the house. Marijuana growing in the house will produce a strong, skunk-like odour that you may be able to smell from outside the house
- Exterior appearance of the property is untidy. There is little outside maintenance done (unshovelled snow, uncut grass, etc.), and garbage bags containing used soil and plant material may be discarded in areas surrounding the house. Mail delivered to the house may be left unchecked, so that flyers and junk mail pile up in the mailbox
- Warning signs are posted in windows or around the outside of the house. These may warn people to “Beware of Dog” or that “Guard Dogs” are on the property