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Surrey Considers Billing Landlords of Pot Grow Houses



The city of Surrey wants the landlords who rent to marijuana growers to pay
police and fire department bills for drug busts.

After a police raid, the city would send the registered owners of the
property an invoice for the full cost of the raid.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who supports the proposed bylaw change now
before the city's public safety committee, says those bills could be in the
"thousands of dollars" range.

McCallum says the vast majority landlords in Surrey are good, but perhaps
10 per cent don't take of their properties or take responsibility for the
tenants they choose.

"We don't want slum landlords - people who have investments in properties
and aren't looking after them," he said Monday in an interview.

So far this year, police in Surrey have executed about 40 search warrants
for marijuana-growing operations and seized more than 10,000 plants.

Corporal Janice Armstrong, the media liaison officer for the RCMP's Surrey
detachment, said the cost of the raids varied widely, depending on whether
the raid involved surveillance, the time it took to obtain a search
warrant, and whether overtime was required.

However, she said an average raid takes about five hours and usually
involves about five police officers. Police get paid about $25 an hour,
so the average raid would cost $625 in wages alone.

Armstrong said charging fees could be another way to encourage landlords to
be more careful when they select tenants.

"Any time you hit people in their pocketbook, it gets their attention," she

The bylaw, which could come into force in four to six months, would likely
result in a heavier financial burden than landlords already face in

For the past 12 months, the city has required landlords to apply for a
special inspection permit after police raid a Vancouver property that has a
marijuana-growing operation.

Electricity and natural gas lines are routinely disconnected because
marijuana growers usually bypass electricity meters and create a fire
hazard with makeshift electrical wiring hooked up to high-watt lamps. The
high humidity in hot rooms lined with plastic sheets also encourages mildew
and rot.

Four kinds of inspections by four inspectors are required, at a total cost
of $412, before the landlord gets a list of things to be fixed and a permit
to reoccupy a house.

In addition to the repair costs the landlord has to pay, there's still
about $200 in reconnection permit fees before the gas and electrical lines
are reconnected.

Carlene Robbins, manager of Vancouver's bylaw administration branch, said
the city has collected more than $193,000 in fees from the owners of houses
raided for marijuana-growing operations since last April, when the city's
Grow Busters Project began.

But the potential profits involved in marijuana-growing operations show why
growers are willing to risk the wrath of landlords, and why some landlords
get their rent payments in cash.

From last April to the beginning of March, police in Vancouver had seized
more than $45 million worth of marijuana and dismantled $2.7 million in
growing equipment in 413 places.

Robbins said 99 per cent of the houses with growing operations were rental
houses, although property owners are supposed to be responsible for their

"If they're not prudent who they rent to and don't monitor their buildings
- if they just take 12 post-dated cheques and never go back - that's sort
of the price they pay for not being diligent landlords," Robbins said.

She noted the city's permit fees are less than half of what landlords get
in rent - an average of about $1,500 a month per house.

So far, the number of suspected marijuana-growing operations in Vancouver
hasn't been reduced.

"We still have a list of 600 addresses that still have to be investigated,"
Robbins said. "The complaint list just keeps growing."

Newshawk: Herb
Pubdate: April 10, 2001
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Page B1
Contact: sunletters@pacpress.southam.ca
Address: 200 Granville Street, Ste.#1, Vancouver BC V6C 3N3
Fax: (604) 605-2323
Website: Vancouver Sun
Author: Glenn Bohn
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