In early May, Inverness residents John and Pat Wade got a call from their son Darryl with distressing news. Miami-Dade police had just found a full-scale marijuana grow lab with 49 plants in the detached garage of their three-bedroom Redland ranch. The couple's 59-year-old tenant, Andres Landin, told the cops the ganja was his.
It was a shock for the Wades. But with Landin taking responsibility for the crime and police hauling him off to jail, they figured they'd soon get on with their lives.
Wrong. Six months later, they're still dealing with the fallout of their tenant's crime. Their ordeal exposes the frustrating bureaucratic red tape homeowners have to slice through after unwittingly renting to one of the tens of thousands of pot-growing criminals who have made Dade a capital of mary jane cultivation.
"I feel like I've been victimized by the tenant and the county," Pat Wade says. "They don't do anything to help you."
First, the residence — which had been the Wades' home for four decades until they migrated north three years ago — was condemned by the county's Permitting, Environment, and Regulatory Affairs Department, even though the grow operation was only in the garage. That's because the permitting department automatically declares any home where police find a grow house an "unsafe structure" because growers usually rip out walls, install water pipes, and illegally reroute electricity.
The county has condemned 605 properties that were used as grow houses since last year, says Miriam Rossi, a department spokeswoman.
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To reverse that declaration, property owners must pass four inspections. However, Darryl says the county does a terrible job of explaining what the Wades actually need to fix to get their house back in order. "They need to have a step-by-step process," Darryl says. "Right now, you have to figure it out on your own."
Dealing with a condemned grow house can also be a costly endeavor. The Wades have already spent $5,000 on permit fees and contractors. Rossi says a typical case related to a grow house incurs about $1,875 in fees.
Rossi disputes the Wades' claims that the department hasn't been helpful, though. "There were three phone calls and two meetings, in addition to providing them the instructions on how to comply," she says.
But there's a final kicker for the homeowners: The Wades won't even get the satisfaction of seeing Landin pay for his crime. Their criminal renter jumped bail and didn't show up for trial September 18.