Is your let property the ideal place to grow cannabis? How to prevent your rental property being used as a drugs factory

Tenants growing cannabis in rental houses is an increasing problem and landlords should consider the risk of weed growers damaging their rented home

There is no doubt about it, home cultivation of cannabis has increased dramatically and residential landlords need to exercise caution when renting their houses to tenants who’s only requirement for the property may be to use it as a cannabis farm. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) says that most of the cannabis consumed in the UK is home grown. In the UK It is perfectly legal to buy cannabis seeds and the paraphernalia needed to grow cannabis, it is the germination of the seeds, i.e the growing of it that is illegal. All that is needed is a suitable property to cultivate the plants, that’s where you, as landlords come in..!

Unless you are careful you may find that you are the unwilling victim of a grower setting up their cannabis farm in the property you have rented to them. It doesn’t need to be a large property, a space 6ft x 6ft can accommodate up to 10 plants, and enough in itself for a tidy profit so don’t overlook the risk of it happening to you.

Preventing your rental property from being used as a grow house by a drug dealer or drug grower

The cost to you for having your rental property used to grow cannabis can be very high…consider the loss of rent for the eviction period and the time it takes to repair the significant damage that can be caused to your property as a result of cultivation of cannabis. Insurers will charge you increased premiums, complaints from neighbours, you could even get a criminal conviction for allowing your property to be used for the production of drugs which is a crime.

Be suspicious if;-

• A tenant wishes to pay several months of rent, in cash, in advance. This is not standard practice and does not necessarily mean the tenant is going to be reliable or trustworthy. It will more than likely be an attempt to limit the contact you have with them during the rental period. An up front payment of rent for the full term would initially seem like a great guarantee that you’ll have your income but be suspicious as it could indicate avoidable trouble ahead.
• The tenant appears to have a lot of cash on them – without an obvious source of income
• The tenant does not have any references even if they have very good reasons for this
• You receive a request not to visit the property during the tenancy, again, for very good reasons that may seem perfectly justifiable. Ignore periodic inspections at your peril as these are most important to limit or curtail cultivation at your property. The plants have certian growing cycles and if you inspect the property at a critical point then you’ll upset the apple cart with a short notice inspection of the property.

How to spot trouble:-

• Electrical wiring may have been tampered with
• A sudden jump or fall in electricity bills
• Blacked out curtains or use of heavy fabric over the windows
• Powerful lights on day and night

• Condensation on windows

• Tenants wanting to increase the security at the property

Other ways to recognise a grow house would be the strong smell that is often detected when cannabis is grown (sounds obvious that one!). Also the constant sound of ventilation equipment which is needed for the cultivation.

Some rental property used as growing houses are rented but are not lived in by the growers who prefer to live nearby and check on the property regularly. Look out for suspicious activity including visits to the property at unsociable hours.

It pays to have a good relationship with local neighbours who can assist with the detection of illegal activity and if they dont’ alert the Police themselves may well be happy to inform you (the property owner) who can take action.

How to avoid being scammed

I.D your tenants – Whether you are using a professional letting agent or if you are letting the property yourself always insist on photo I.D, proof of current address, telephone numbers, car registration number, more than one form of I.D. and a credit check. Beware of non UK identity with which you may be unfamiliar, so ensure it is genuine. After checking the identification, keep and copy of it. Also, watch out for requests to put utility bills in different names.

Make sure you have genuine references for your prospective tenants and contact the referees named. Visit the property after two weeks to ensure the person renting form you is the person who is living there. Cannabis growers will often use somebody or a couple as a ‘front’ who will then disappear after the rental has been arranged. It is important to check your property regularly.

Don’t be tempted by a cash offer not to visit your property, however tempting it may seem. You are asking for trouble and it is just not worth the risk the reputational damage, the damage to your property and the risk of insurers not paying your claim for damage. If that isn’t enough, HMRC will breathe down your neck, and you risk a criminal record!

The damage done
Damage to property caused by cannabis farming can be extensive. From damage to electrical systems, plumbing and heating systems, and structural damage to walls floors and ceilings, the criminals will shape your property to best suit their needs without a thought for the damage they are causing.

If the Police have to break in to the property using a battering ram this will usually cause significant damage to the door and door frame. The property will have to be boarded up pending replacement and subsequent redecoration.

Will the insurers pay for it?

Some will, but some wont. Choose your landlords policy carefully, because regardless of whether or not you feel drugs farms to be a risk, you still want the best policy wording. The average cost of an insurance claim for damage to property being ‘customised’ by a drug farmer is nearly £40,000. Is it worth the risk of not being property insured?

Speak to Bickers Insurance Services for sound advice and a competitive online quotation

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