Given the popularity of cannabis usage in Australia, property owners and landlords would be wise to consider the pitfalls of tenants using houses for marijuana grow operations.
In addition to incurring unwanted complications involving law enforcement, the running of marijuana grow operations by tenants can pose a plethora of hazards to the condition of rental properties as well as the health of current and subsequent occupants.
One of the chief hazards to properties caused by marijuana grow operations is water damage, given that the illicit cultivation of cannabis involves running what are essentially indoor farms.
Water damage can in and of itself can severely compromise the material condition of a property, resulting in the rotting of timber structures and the rusting of steel, as well as the de-lamination of key materials such as plywood and the destruction of carpeting, wallpaper and paint.
The presence of water in tandem with other aspects of marijuana grow operations also provide the ideal conditions for the proliferation of mould.
Mould is extremely unsightly, assuming the appearance of stains or discolouration on walls, ceiling or carpets, and can require extensive and costly repairs to fully remedy.
On top of their negative aesthetic impact, mould can also be hazardous to the health of property occupants, causing sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion as well as respiratory problems, particularly for those who suffer from asthma or sensitive allergies.
Marijuana grow operations can cause severe damage to properties in the form of the extensive structural alterations involved in the construction of functioning indoor farms – illicit activities from which the runners of such operations are unlikely to shy away given their demonstrable readiness to break the law.
These include unapproved alterations to the electrical wiring and plumbing of houses in order to avert the exorbitant power and water bills that intensive grow operations entail.
This causes structural damage to properties, in the form of the coring or cutting of walls and insulation to access wires and pipes or install improvised ventilation. The dodgy wiring work performed by amateur electricians can make homes 40 times more vulnerable to fire.
Although the issue of marijuana grow operations may appear a remote contingency to many, they warrant increased concern and attention from property owners given the popularity of cannabis consumption in Australia, in combination with the fact that the majority of locally distributed cannabis is domestically cultivated and grown indoors.
Figures from the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicate that one in three Australians over the age of 14 had experimented with cannabis at least once in their life, while 1.5 million had used the drug within the past 12 months. According to the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, the most frequently detected means of cultivating cannabis is by means of indoor, hydroponic methods.
Thankfully for landlords and managers, marijuana grow operations in houses are characterised by a broad range of telltale signs that can be easily detected.
Obvious physical signs include improvised vents in the roofs, windows or others parts of the house, enhanced security in the form of security cameras, floodlights or stronger locks; exterior stains or “wet spots” resulting from the presence of large amounts of water within the house, and covered windows or unusually bright lighting.
Other signs include the pungent odour characteristic of cannabis plants, power surges or brown-outs in the neighbourhood as a result of the copious amounts of electricity that grow operations consume; the stockpiling of large amounts of garbage resulting from the various materials required for pot cultivation, and the presence of large amounts of condensation on windows.