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By Hempology | March 6, 2006

ore than a year has gone by since Maple Ridge’s grow-op bylaw was passed, but so far only two drug raids can be traced directly to the new law.

According to bylaws director Brock McDonald, out of 50 to 60 search warrants executed by police in 2005, one or two resulted from a tip from a landlord.

The bylaw, passed in late 2004, requires landlords to inspect homes, condos and apartments every three months and report any signs of marijuana grow-ops or meth labs. If they don’t, they could be stuck with heavy financial penalties, such as paying for police or firefighter wages required for dismantling a drug lab, as well as municipal permits.

Even if they do inspections regularly, the landlords would still be stuck with the cleanup and repair costs.

But the bylaw bothers both Clark Browning, newly arrived from Ontario, and the Tenants’ Rights Action Coalition.

In a letter to The News, Browning objects to the March 1 search of his apartment on Royal Crescent.

“Effectively, the council has deputized all the landlords to conduct otherwise illegal searches of your homes to look for drugs and then tell the authorities if they find them,” Browning writes. “Imagine, if you will, that four times a year, the RCMP knocked on your door and demanded to inspect your home, your living room, your bedroom — just in case you were doing something illegal.

“Since I don’t do drugs and certainly don’t have a grow-op, I have a problem with this. Do you?”

Tom Durning with the Tenants Rights Action Coalition, doesn’t oppose such bylaws, common in Lower Mainland municipalities. But he questions their effectiveness, citing police reports who say the trend has now changed and drug producers are more likely to buy their own homes.

But who, he asked, is inspecting owner-occupied homes? And what about commercial buildings?

“I think it’s a way of city councils copping out,” to make it look like they’re doing something, he said.

“We don’t have any evidence that grow-ops are rental properties.”

However, according to McDonald, 90 per cent of the drug raids done in 2005 in Maple Ridge involved rental properties.

Cpl. Bernie Smandych with Ridge Meadows RCMP said the bylaw does make landlords more accountable for their buildings.

Under the new bylaw, the district will be billing the landlords between $150,000 and $160,000 to recover policing costs from those searches.

Durning, though, didn’t think the bylaw was a hardship for tenants. Most landlords probably don’t do inspections unless they suspect something, he said. Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords can inspect their properties once a month, providing 24 hours’ written notice is given.

Maureen Lyons, who manages the apartment where Browning lives, said most people accept the inspections. “The response I’m getting is, ‘I’ve got nothing to hide. Come on in.’ ”

Lyons said when landlords or managers make inspections, they must be accompanied by a witness. “You’re not allowed to search. Just walk in and walk out.”

If anything illegal is seen, landlords are to report it, she said.

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