Would you buy a property with a notorious past?

Apr 1st, 2014 | By FCT

A house, like a person can have a checkered past. Unlike paint, wallpaper, tile or other cosmetic choices that a previous owner made – and if you don’t like can be changed faster than a 30 minute HGTV show – the previous owner may have left your house with a reputation. Yes, your house may be known as the “haunted house” or the “drug house” or the “party house.”

After we bought our current home, the neighbours told us that our house was notorious because the teenagers had a blow out party that required every police car in the precinct to bring it under control. At the same time it was looted by a number of party-goers. So we have the party house with loot bags.

These are not the types of issues that generally appear on title. The land title office does not record “ghost” as one of the owners on the deed. Some municipalities will flag homes that have been used as marijuana grow ops or a clandestine drug labs, if remediation is outstanding and there is a work order to bring it to code. But there are no standard practices on registering marijuana grow ops and clandestine drug labs on title.

Title insurers, realtors, property insurers amongst others have been asking the Ontario government to disclose through the land title system properties that have been used as grow-ops or drug labs. While the property may be remediated, it still allows the consumer to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to purchase the property. They can also ask informed questions about mould, power systems, ventilation etc that are relevant in the remediation of these properties. This request has fallen on deaf years, likely because the province is worried about stigmatizing any properties.

Now in the absence of consumer information from the land title office, there is a new website, www.housecreep.com. It includes information on activities like marijuana grow operations, clandestine drug labs, and the site of other criminal activities. You can input your address and see if there are any flags on your home. I of course entered my address and although nothing came up it was interesting to see what was in my area. So it can give you a sense of the neighbourhood as well.

You may have a high tolerance for a “stigmatized” property. I am ok with the party house moniker, but I would probably feel different if a pack of teenagers showed up at my door looking for a party on a regular basis.
So think about your tolerance for these types of “non-title” property issues and what structural issues or visitors they could bring. If you have any significant concerns you may want to ask the seller, realtor or the neighbours if the house has a past. Check all the available sources – even enter the address in a Google search.

If you have any tips on how to check a home’s past please leave a comment here.

Categories: Fraud, Title Insurance
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