The City of Prince George is developing a bylaw to crack down on landlords who allow marijuana growing operations or clandestine drug labs on their property.
On Monday city council directed city staff to develop the bylaw, which will hold the landlords accountable for the RCMP costs of removing material and equipment from the grow ops and drug labs; and the costs of inspecting the buildings for safety, health and fire code violations.
We’re already doing inspections on properties, after the fact, as police find them. This would allow us to recoup those costs, bylaw services manager Guy Gusdal said. Most of the Lower Mainland have these (bylaws). Certainly they’ve been effective in dealing with the problems.
City health, safety and fire inspectors have inspected the sites of approximately six marijuana grow operations already this year, Gusdal said.
Information on what those inspections have cost the city is not available, he said, but depending on the level of damage to the home they can be extensive and time consuming. Mould, substandard wiring, structural changes to the building, spilled chemicals and other hazards are common in marijuana grow operations and clandestine drug labs.
These buildings often have life/safety issues, Gusdal said. You can have substantial damage to the home.
Council also directed administration to prepare a policy to register on the property title that it was used as a grow op or drug lab. City council has that authority under the community charter, but must receive a report from the inspector and approve the title notification on a case-by-case basis.
The bylaw will also allow the city to request electricity consumption information from B.C. Hydro. Homes or buildings which have unusually-high consumption may be inspected to determine the cause, Gusdal said.
There may be legitimate causes for the higher-than-average use such as electric heating systems or swimming pools, he said, but it could be powering grow lamps for marijuana.
The RCMP can get a warrant to request that information about specific properties, Gusdal said.
Because they’re doing it as a criminal investigation, there is a pretty high standard (of evidence required), he said. Our requirements for getting that information are to a lesser standard than police, because we’re doing it as a health/safety issue.
RCMP officers will be involved in any inspections conducted to keep the peace and respond to illegal activity found.
A lot of these things are very preventable, Gusdal said. If the owner is managing the property and does inspections, this is preventable. If the owner finds (illegal activity) and reports it within 24 hours, they will not be held responsible for the costs.
Coun. Cameron Stolz said putting a notification on the property title means the landlord will have a harder time selling the property down the road.
Coun.. Dave Wilbur said the bylaw will force landlords to be more diligent in managing their property.
This is going to hit slumlords where it hurts, Coun. Brian Skakun said.
By Arthur Williams
June 22, 2010