Cannabis – a growing problem for landlords

The UK is the largest supplier and producer of Cannabis, so states the Independent website. In 2016 the UK produced some 44.9% and exported roughly 70% of the world’s total cannabis supply.

You can read the Independent article here.

Of course, there have been more recent developments with regards to the use of cannabis, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes. It is no wonder then, that many people are looking to cash in on the opportunities that exist for this drug.

The Problem for Landlords

Gone are the days of large scale industrial buildings used to grow cannabis. Police are now finding that small scare growing is more commonly found. These tend to be set up in residential homes, for many reasons.

Firstly, there is less risk for the gangs involved in growing in several properties, as if one is raided, it has very little effect on their business overall. Rental homes are very attractive as for some properties there is no paper-trail

As a landlord, you may reason that it would be easy to spot such activity happening in your rented property.

However, is that the case?

Gangs are becoming increasingly clever at thwarting police and other agencies by perhaps trying to pay several months in advance. With some poorer, harder to rent areas, this can be a real temptation for landlords looking to rent out troublesome properties, especially if the landlord has lost money on tenants missing payments, or not paying rent at all.

Another method used by some gangs is employing someone to rent the property in their behalf. So you are faced with, on the face of it, a nice working couple, looking to rent your property, which is then used by the gang as either a front to sell the drug or more likely to grow it.

Sadly, identification can be forged, references too, and the end result is that the property you think you rented to that lovely couple is in fact being used to grow cannabis.

This could mean that your lovely home is completely destroyed, with walls being knocked down, floors and ceilings destroyed, heavy duty lighting and ventilation systems being installed.

The repairs after all of this could cost thousands and thousands of pounds. Also to grow cannabis costs a huge amount in electricity charges so often the supply is bypassed in order to avoid the huge costs involved. By-passing the electricity in this way is highly dangerous and is a significant fire risk.

Landlords could also face further problems from the law. Possessing, selling or growing cannabis is of course still illegal, no matter the quantity grown. A person connected to the growing of cannabis, even the landlord of a property being used for such illegal activity could find themselves losing their homes, facing prosecution or even time in jail. Thankfully, the police would need to prove that the landlord knowingly allowed their property to be used to grow the drug. Even if you were able to avoid such criminal proceedings, there would still be the investigation to wade through.

How to weed out the problem

Advice for landlords looking to deter tenants from renting properties for illegal drug cultivation is plentiful. Most police forces produce information for landlords and the sort of things to look out for when renting your property out to tenants.

For example, Bedfordshire Police offer the following advice:-

  • Electricity/electric wiring tampered with
  • Very powerful lights being used
  • Windows blacked out/covered over
  • A sudden jump or drop in electricity bills
  • High humidity
  • Large ducting tubes
  • Gas cylinders
  • Bin bags full/compost bins full of vegetation matter on a regular basis

The above are just the main tell-tale signs of illegal drug production in a property. There are other signs that landlords can make themselves aware of but how can it be avoided in the first place?

Again, Bedfordshire Police share the following advice:-

  • A tenants desire to pay several months of rent in advance, possibly in cash
  • Payments in cash but no other forms of support
  • Continued requests or denials from tenant in allowing you to visit your property
  • Check tenants identification carefully, and ask for more than one type of identification
  • Look out for telephone accounts in different names
  • Check services such as gas, electricity, etc is in the same name as the tenant
  • Check prospective tenant’s rental history
  • Obtain mobile phone numbers from prospective tenants
  • Obtain car registration numbers and details
  • Check property after a period of 2 or 3 weeks

Other advice is to give your details to any neighbours who can then contact you if they become suspicious about the new tenants. This can be a very helpful step in fighting the misuse of your home.

Gangs using homes for illegal activity will always try to hide their true identity and by being careful, landlords should be able to avoid renting out their properties to these type of tenants.

Landlords should always undertake caution when entering the home of a suspected criminal operation. Sadly, booby traps such as razor blades on light switches, traps on the floor, etc can be found in some homes and firefighters have expressed other dangers when having to enter a property after a fire.

Will my insurance cover me?

Most landlord insurance companies and policies will not cover you for damage or loss of rent from such criminal activity or if they do it may not cover the full amount needed to repair damage.

The reasoning behind this is that insurers are worried about condoning criminal activity and cannot be seen to been to support it.

My tenant is growing cannabis – what’s next?

So you find out that your tenant is growing cannabis. You decide to ring the police and evict the tenant.

This may not always be as easy as it seems.

Firstly, there is no guarantee that the police will take action but you MUST report it.
If they do take action, then you may find that your property is given a Closure Order and you will have some time in which you can then apply for possession of your property.

This doesn’t always happen though. One court case in particular –

THE GLASGOW HOUSING ASSOCIATION LIMITED v MARK STUART meant that in this case the landlord could not evict the tenant. (with thanks to TCYoung Solicitors for the information)

However, if the police do not take action then you may have to wait until the end of the policy and issue a Section 21 notice.

No matter what happens with your property though, we at Imperial Claims are happy to talk you through the services we can offer you so that you can get your property repaired and back in the rental market.

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