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By Hempology | May 10, 2008

Sun, 04 May 2008
Province, The (CN BC)
Author: Susan Lazaruk


Say City Wants Them To Pay $5,000 For Search For Grow-Op That Wasn’t There

When Selina Prevost and her husband returned home recently to find a notice tacked to their front door advising them Coquitlam city inspectors would return in 24 hours looking for a marijuana grow operation, they willingly let them in.

“I knew they were shutting down grow-ops, and I knew we had nothing to hide,” she said.

The next day, six inspectors from the Public Safety Inspection Team accompanied by two RCMP officers spent two and a half hours in their home.

After they were finished, they cited problems with the electrical box and water heater and slapped up a red Do Not Occupy notice.

“There’s a big scarlet letter on our door,” she said.

The Prevosts were charged $5,000 for the inspection and told they would be charged another $5,000 for a reinspection to ensure the repairs were done before they could move back in.

Prevost, who is due to give birth to her first child today, and her husband were virtually homeless.

They were allowed to remain in the home during the day to carry out the $2,500 in repairs but technically weren’t allowed to sleep there, although staff told them because of the circumstances no one would be checking.

“We are basically squatting in our own home,” she said.

“Our only crime was that we bought our house.”

They had bought the three-bedroom house on Cape Horn Avenue in August 2006 after a six-hour inspection.  They were told there may have been a grow-op in an old shed the couple were going to take down anyway.

A previous owner, not the one they bought from, had had a spike in hydro usage, a red flag for a grow-op.  That put the address on a “watch list” for the new inspection team, launched a year ago to identify and shut down grow-ops.

Inspectors were alerted when there was a minor upward surge in usage in December 2007, which Prevost guessed had something to do with the cold weather and Hydro switching from averaging to reading their meter.

Officials agreed to waive the first $5,000 inspection fee because they found no grow-op, but Prevost said they were told they would have to pay the second $5,000 fee.

City spokeswoman Therese Mickelson said there was only one inspection fee and the second fee is a few hundred dollars that is standard after any repairs.

She also said the house was targeted because of the upsurge in electrical use that inspectors later determined was due to construction carried out without a building permit.

But Prevost said she had been told repeatedly that staff were doing their best to waive the second $5,000 fee and weren’t sure it could be done.

And she said the only work the couple has carried out on the home was taking out the floor in the basement, which wasn’t done in December 2007, and haven’t constructed anything.

She said she wanted her and her husband’s story to be told to warn others so the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

Mickelson said the fees for the new inspection team are designed to cover the costs of the new program, including paying for police officers, without having any costs paid by taxpayers.

From May to December 2007, 128 properties were inspected and 88 were found to have grow-ops and another 24 were strongly suspected as grow-ops but insufficient evidence was found.

Since implementing the program, the city also reduced the notification period to 24 hours from 48 hours, to prevent grow-op operators from clearing out the operation before inspectors could return.

In nine homes, there was no evidence of a grow-op but the power surges were linked to a large aquarium, a computer business operating out of the home and construction work without permits.

Three others were found to have some kind of electrical hazard, and Mickelson said the owners were grateful for the information.

Prevost would like to hear from other householders who have been inspected, and can be reached at

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