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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Riverside Grow Houses, SERVPRO Offers Advice and Information

8/2/2021 (Permalink)

What to Do if the House You Rent or Purchase Was a Marijuana Grow House in Riverside?

While it is true that if a home was previously used as a meth lab, potential buyers must be given that information unless the home has been successfully remediated; In California selling a property that's been used for the cultivation, manufacturing of, or distribution of marijuana also requires disclosure, if the real estate agent or broker is aware of the activity.  Because of both potential health and structure issues from use as a grow house, it is vital to find out and have the home professionally cleaned. 

Riverside does have laws regarding grow houses:

According to Riverside Municipal Code section 19.342.030 (B), “no individual or entity may plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process marijuana plants inside a private residence, or inside an accessory structure to a private residence located upon the grounds of a private residence, in excess of the limitations imposed by California Health and Safety Code section 11362.2.” And 11362.2 (a)(3) of the Health & Safety code states “not more than six living plants may be planted, cultivated, harvested, dried, or processed within a single private residence, or upon the grounds of that private residence, at one time.”

Ward 4 Councilman Chuck Conder stated “the proliferation of illegal grow facilities in our neighborhoods should not be a surprise to anyone.  These dangerous activities have been seen in every state that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  The illegal and shoddy rewiring of electrical connections needed to provide the massive power requirements to serve these facilities is a fire hazard that threatens surrounding homes.  Add to that the volatile chemicals used in the illegal grow houses and you have an explosive situation that could endanger an entire neighborhood.”

How is a Home Used as a Grow House in Riverside?

In a standard grow house operation, each room in the home contains multiple marijuana plants, and usually, no one resides on the property. The windows are often foiled for increase light reflection or blacked out to stop anyone from peeping in and seeing the plants. Little regard is given to the potential for staining floors from the pots or tubs containing the plants. 

SERVPRO Says You Should Care if Your Home Was Used as a Grow House!

Non-disclosure for renters or buyers for a home's previous history as a grow house can be concerning on several levels. First and foremost, unsafe modifications may have occurred to the property such as load-bearing walls removed to expand the size of a grow room. The electrical wiring may have been re-run to hook up grow lights and bypass safety regulations to the point of leaving live wires on insulation in the attic which is both an electrocution and fire hazard. An electrical source may have been Gerry-rigged from a neighboring property placing unintended stress on the electrical panel, circuit breakers, or fuses.

And there is the water. Marijuana plants require copious amounts of water and humidity. In hydroponic grow operations, the plants are grown directly in water with little to no soil. For ease of watering multiple plant stations at once, irrigation systems are created indoors with little thought as to the damage caused to floor, walls, ceilings from leaks and spillage. The high humidity creates a perfect environment for mold colonies to flourish and it spreads quickly both inside and outside the home. Mold colonies have been known to cover walls and ceilings with massive colonies completely.

Landlords should have homes professionally mitigated if a grow operation is discovered after a tenant leaves and prospective homeowners should specifically ask inspectors to look for signs the home was used as a grow house before purchasing. A lower asking price for the home may sometimes be negotiated to account for the professional cleaning needed before the property is at a standard for healthy habitation. A biohazardous condition requires certified IICRC technicians like those employed by SERVPRO for safe and secure removal of all mold residues. 

If a Landlord Suspects a Tenant is Running a Grow House, What are the Signs?

It is a good idea to inspect your rental properties periodically before extreme structural modifications have a chance to happen. Landlords should use some of the same indications that law enforcement looks for when identifying a grow house such as the refusal of a tenant to let the landlord into the property with excuses such as they are traveling or otherwise away. Condensation collected on the windows is a tell-tale sign of highly humid conditions inside the home. Moreover, of course, the strong odor of marijuana is often a dead giveaway. During mold remediation large LGR low-grain refrigerant dehumidifiers are set in strategic location by the AMRT applied microbial remediation technicians from SERVPRO to restore a normal indoor RH relative humidity.

Why Landlords or Sellers Should Never Self-Clean a Grow House Property

Due to the water damage and probability of mold within the structure, cleaning a grow house is rated as an intense Category Three, Class Four biohazard job and is not a cleanup job for your usual make-ready cleaning crew. Often mold remediation teams must don PPE personal protective equipment when removing mold colonies and spores from a grow house. 

The constantly humid conditions can result in structural damage such as buckled sheetrock, crumbling carpet padding from repeated saturation and not being thoroughly dried and staining can occur throughout the home. Every part of the house needs to be inspected for the possibility of mold colonies, including wall cavities, subflooring and even brickwork and eves on the exterior that can harbor mold coming from inside. The ductwork in the home may have been re-routed, cut into and may contain the strong odor of marijuana and mold spores.

The level of cleaning required to return a former grow house to sanitary standards that are safe for habitation needs professional-level remediation techniques. This process can include containment of rooms as they are mitigated for mold and water damage, the use of air scrubbers with HEPA filters to capture mold spores smaller than the human eye can see and disinfection of all surfaces with professional quality solutions designed specifically for biohazard environments. These cleaning, sanitizing, and equipment are in the SERVPRO aresenal. Water can leave a foul odor when it penetrates porous objects in a home, combined with the strong smell of marijuana; the scent can be overwhelming and very difficult to remove. Rather than masking the odor, it requires neutralization at the molecular level. 

There are machines such as the hydroxyl generators that neutralize bacteria and odors using the same methods as the sun for breaking down these offenders by emitting UV rays. Ozone machines combine the O3 oxygen molecules with odors and effectively neutralize them. Another technique that is sometimes employed is ULV (ultra-low-volume) fogging. A SERVPRO technician delivers a heated disinfectant solution as a wet penetrating fog that permeates porous items in the home and removes odors while it also disinfects. 

While walls and baseboards may require thorough cleaning and sometimes replacement, flooring suffers extreme levels of damage in a grow house. Carpet and padding is often a loss in a former grow house due to deterioration from exposure to water and mold along with contaminated marijuana plant parts. On a case by case basis, hardwood flooring that has buckled or warped from constant exposure to high levels of moisture can be dried using specialized techniques and then sanded and refinished. Composite or other types of wood flooring usually cannot be successfully mitigated and are a loss if saturated with enough water and humidity over time. The demolition technicians from SERVPRO can remove all contaminated materials according to OSHA and local codes.

If you have a property you are renting or want to purchase, and you suspect it was used as a grow house, you should get it professionally cleaned by a company that is certified in the handling biohazards. Remember, at this time potential landlords or sellers in our state have no legal obligation to let you know if the property was used for growing marijuana. A clean bill of health after testing by an Industrial Hygienist following mold remediation provides peace of mind that the structure is once again safe for habitation.

We suggest that you contact SERVPRO of West Riverside City for an inspection and assessment of a grow house in your area. We can remediate and prepare your property for a third party inspection. Contact us at (951) 351-8033.

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