Is there a Grow-Op in your Rental Property?
Because the government can take your property if there is
The Crown can seize a King Township home used to grow marijuana, even though no criminal charges were ever filed in the case, Ontario’s highest court has ruled. But, the government shouldn’t be able to take property without involving its owner in an investigation, the spokesperson for a landlord organization said in the aftermath of the ruling.
The home, at 170 Glenville Rd., was ordered seized by the Superior Court of Justice last year after a marijuana grow operation was found there in 2006.
If illegal activity is discovered at a property, an application can be filed at the provincial Landlord Tenant Board to terminate the tenancy and get the offender out, said April Stewart, a paralegal and owner of Landlord Legal in Barrie, who speaks for the Ontario Landlord Association.
“That way, the landlord has a say,” she argued.
When York Regional Police raided the Dufferin Street and Davis Drive West property, officers found a “sophisticated” marijuana grow operation, including 1,175 plants, fans, timers, growing lights and bypassed hydro, court documents state. The operation could generate $1 million on the streets.
The home’s owner, Wing Kwong Lee, argued he had no idea the home was being used as a drug den and had rented the property to a man named Steven, who paid five months worth of rent in advance.
He met Steven through a friend of a friend at Casino Rama, Mr. Lee claimed.
But, Steven had left before police arrived. And, Ontario’s attorney general was not convinced Steven actually existed, since there was no last name, telephone number or lease agreement on record for him, court records state.
No criminal charges were ever laid against Mr. Lee or anyone else in connection with the grow operation.
However, the Crown argued Mr. Lee was not acting as a responsible landlord and the property, valued at $457,000 in court documents, should be forfeited.
The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed Thursday and upheld a forfeiture order by Justice Hugh K. O’Connell last summer.
The province moved on Mr. Lee’s property under the Civil Remedies Act, which has been tested and upheld by Canada’s Supreme Court.
The use of the legislation in this case was “pretty aggressive”, Ms Stewart said, adding landlords will be scared out of renting and leasing in Ontario following the ruling.
She urges landlords to obtain, in writing, information about tenants and inspect the property 30 days after a tenant moves in.
Meanwhile, 49 drug-related properties, many of which were used for marijuana grow operations, have been forfeited in Ontario since 2003, said Nauman Khan, spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Bentley.
Ontario has used civil forfeiture to seize crack houses, grow operations, vehicles used in street racing and by repeat impaired drivers and biker clubhouses, he added.
All of these achievements help prevent people from keeping property and profits obtained from unlawful activity and to support victims, which are key priorities for the attorney general, Mr. Khan said.
More than $14 million has been forfeited to the Crown in Ontario since November 2003, according to the province. Forfeiture under provincial legislation does not carry the stigma associated with a criminal conviction, the appeals court has ruled.