Do You Have to Disclose Growing Cannabis When Selling Your Home?

By Dylan Dee

Now that recreational cannabis is legal, federal law allows Canadians to grow up to four plants per household. But Canada’s real estate industry is mired in uncertainty over whether sellers and realtors must disclose if a home was ever used for cannabis cultivation — even if it’s just a few legal plants.

First, it’s important to differentiate between four legally acquired plants and cannabis “grow-ops.” A grow-op is a large-scale, illegal cannabis growing operation located inside a residential home. Grow-ops have always been illegal, and recreational legalization doesn’t change that.

Because grow-ops can contain up to hundreds of plants, they can lead to serious problems including mould and moisture in the air, behind the walls and in the floors. Residents may also have improperly retrofitted the home to grow cannabis, meaning they could have put in dangerous electrical wiring or cut holes into the ceiling.

To minimize the health and safety risk of home cultivation, the federal government set the growing limit at four plants per household. Weed isn’t the easiest plant to grow, but experts generally consider four plants safe as long as a space has adequate ventilation and proper wiring if extra lighting is used.

Even if pot’s legal, the stigma lingers

However, not all Canadians are cool with home cultivation. Forty-eight per cent of Canadians surveyed by Zoocasa say they would reconsider purchasing a home if even a small amount of legal marijuana was grown there, while 39% believe increased usage inside a home would decrease its value.

Just as cannabis laws vary by province, so do real estate regulations. There’s no way to be 100 per cent certain that a home hasn’t been used to grow cannabis — legal or otherwise. Currently, the only way for a prospective buyer to know a house’s history is if they ask directly, if the seller or realtor states it, if their home inspector discovers signs of damage, or if a neighbour tells them.

If a realtor is aware of cannabis cultivation issues, it’s generally their duty to tell any prospective buyers, but not necessarily if there’s no damage to the home or the damage has already been fully repaired.

To protect themselves, realtors will often include a clause in their contract with their client that says the seller has no knowledge that the home has ever been used to cultivate cannabis.

Disclosure rules by province

While federal law sets the limit at four plants per household, Manitoba and Quebec have banned home cultivation all together. Most provincial real estate disclosure laws target “marijuana grow operations,” but haven’t yet been updated to distinguish between large-scale illegal grow-ops and homes used for lawful cultivation.

Only Quebec has a law requiring sellers, in addition to realtors, to disclose a house’s drug history even if no visible signs are present. In Manitoba, Winnipeg realtors are now forbidden to write in the MLS listing that the home was used to grow cannabis because of privacy and defamation concerns.

In Ontario and British Columbia, realtors must inform prospective buyers of any factors that may affect the market value of the property, including any potential stigma attached to it. The Ontario Real Estate Association, in fact, is so worried about the potential rise of home cultivation that they’ve created a campaign called Protecting Ontario Homes to lobby the government to impose more clear cut rules, train home inspectors, and reduce the number of legal plants allowed from four to one inside apartments and condo units.

Alberta arguably has the loosest rules. As long as the home is fully repaired with no damages, no outright disclosure is needed and both the realtor and seller can remain silent to avoid answering if asked directly. If they answer, they must do so truthfully. It’s likely a seller can grow plants for personal use without having to report it, as long as they didn’t incur any damage to the property while doing so.

What can buyers and sellers do?

Unfortunately, homes containing a couple of legal cannabis plants could be slapped with the same stigma as illegal grow-ops. If prospective buyers don’t want to live in a home that fostered even a legal number of plants, they should hire an experienced home inspector trained in the signs of cannabis cultivation.

Likewise, sellers worried about potential resale value should be prepared to answer questions about whether cannabis was ever grown in the home, the quantity, and for how long. Otherwise, they might want consider skipping adding a marijuana plant to their collection of rosemary and oregano and instead look up where to buy cannabis from legal provincial retailers.

Dylan Dee is the community manager for Lift & Co. He’s passionate about connecting cannabis experts with bud beginners.

Lift & Co. helps Canadians explore, understand, and make better-informed decisions around cannabis strains and licensed producers through events, content, data insights and cannabis reviews.