Manitoba consumer protection minister Ron Lemieux to meet with REALTOR® group
June 2, 2014 – WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) is meeting with a senior elected official in the Manitoba government to discuss concerns about the lack of an accurate, up-to-date public registry of drug production sites which exist in unknown and growing numbers of locations across the province.
The REALTOR® group has also asked the provincial government to establish and oversee standard protocols for the remediation of affected properties to protect the public and most peoples’ largest investment – their home.
In response to a letter from MREA grow ops taskforce chair Claude Davis, sent in April to Premier Greg Selinger and to several senior NDP cabinet ministers (justice, health, housing and consumer protection), a spokesperson for the Manitoba government issued a written statement to media, which read:
“We are looking forward to meeting with the MREA to discuss their concerns. For most Manitoba families, buying a home is the biggest investment they will make and our government wants to help protect those investments. We agree home purchasers have a right to know the history of a home, including any defects or issues with the home such as past grow ops. That’s why under current legislation, real estate agents must disclose to a prospective buyer if they are aware of a house that was a grow op or has other issues. This information would be on the offer to purchase form. Over the last few months we have consulted with hundreds of Manitobans about buying and purchasing a home and any additional consumer protection measures they feel are needed to protect Manitoba families’ investments. This consultation was done as we work towards introducing legislation on real estate services to better protect consumers.
Winnipeg police have already established an online registry of former drug homes. So have the RCMP. The public and real estate agents are urged to check these websites when they are considering a home purchase.
We also are looking into regulating home inspectors. To this end, we are working with other provincial partners, along with the Canadian Standards Association. This would give prospective buyers who use home inspectors an extra degree of protection.”
REALTORS® are required by law, as regulated by the Manitoba Securities Commission, to disclose to customer(s) whenever they know a house or property was a former chemical drug production site or marijuana grow operation.
The problem is, the current police and RCMP databases only make pertinent information available for one year. After that, REALTORS® are still responsible to disclose to clients, but with a limited registry there is nowhere for them to get accurate, timely information for proper disclosure. This reality also means no government department is held accountable to the unsuspecting consumer who may unknowingly purchase a former drug production site which was not disclosed.
REALTORS® believe the Manitoba government’s justice department should mandate the local RCMP and police services to produce and to maintain open, transparent reporting on this issue. The group is asking Premier Selinger and his cabinet to work cooperatively with the real estate profession to solve this problem in a timely way.
Drug production can make a property a health or safety hazard due to the presence of mould, toxic residues, and gases. Some homes have undergone dangerous structural, wiring and/or mechanical changes. There are unknown health risks associated with chemical drug production sites, which are being discovered in growing numbers in properties across the province and for which no standards exist to clean them up and make them safe to live in.
In an interview with CJOB’s Richard Cloutier in March of last year, Premier Selinger agreed that MREA’s push for mandatory disclosure of homes with a drug production history is an important issue. Selinger told CJOB, “We’ve brought in some very good consumer protection legislation, so I think this fits that theme of protecting Manitobans’ most valuable assets, which is something we’re very interested in doing. ” Selinger said.
“Can we take it further than that and make it absolute disclosure? That’s certainly well within the scope of our legislative powers in Manitoba… We’ll take a serious look at it,” the Premier said.
REALTORS® take continuing education courses each year that include education on drug production sites. In those courses they learn that a listing agent is required to disclose if he or she has knowledge that a house had been a drug production site.
But behind walls, in painted basements and in other hidden places – that can easily be covered up by the seller before a house is put to market – REALTORS® don’t always know which homes were once used to cook up batches of chemical drugs and/or to grow crops of marijuana.
Professionals in the industry simply want to do the right thing and not be held liable for failing to disclose something potentially dangerous of which they have no way to know exists.
Without a central public registry that remains visible to the public, dangerous facts can remain hidden, along with unknown public health dangers, behind many walls across Manitoba.