The number of landlords turning to Legal 4 Landlords for advice about suspected cannabis farms has risen by 180% in the last six months to September 2013.
Landlords are right to be concerned as the damage caused by using a property as cannabis farm can cause thousands of pounds worth of property damage. Recent headlines about the damage done to rental properties by green fingered tenants makes frightful reading for most landlords.
(you can read the full story here).
Unfortunately for many landlords, they only become aware of the problem once they are contacted by the police, at which point the damage has already been done and the landlord is left with a huge repair bill.
Typical damage caused by cannabis farms:
- Electrical damage as tenants rewire power cables for high powered lighting.
Some tenants will also try to bypass the meter reading equipment.
- Tenants may gut the property and install high power lights and ventilation systems.
- Remove partitioning walls in order to make temperature control easier to maintain.
- Install ‘venting’ usually through the loft to transfer smells away to try and avoid detection. This causes serious damage to the roof of the property.
- Damage is caused to walls and ceilings by the installation of high powered lighting.
- Damage and/or removal of floor boards and floor coverings.
- Clearing all the rubbish which remains after the police remove the evidence.
Cannabis farm warning signs
Cannabis farms are notorious for going undetected by the landlord, usually because the landlord is initially happy with their ‘quiet’ tenants who don’t even ask for anything or report any problems. They could have either paid their rent upfront, or will pay on time each month to avoid drawing any attention to themselves. However there are some tell-tale signs which you can pay attention to:
- If your tenants act strangely and never seem to be at the property.
- Tenants are difficult to get hold of to arrange inspections or any sort of safety check – and if you do manage to arrange an inspection they either cancel or are not there.
- Complaints or concerns from neighbours about tenants coming and going at all times without any logical reason.
- Curtains and blinds are closed day and night, with the lights on – even during the day.
- Strange noises (such as a humming) which could be fans.
- Doors and windows appear to have been tampered with, or seem to be fixed shut from the inside.
- There may be a large dog at the property, which is left to guard the crop night and day.
- Letter boxes are sealed shut to avoid a landlord or neighbour lifting the letter box and being able to smell the cannabis inside.
- Any unusual digging around the property which could be an attempt to access mains power cables so they don’t have to pay for the enormous amounts of electricity they use.
Landlord tips to prevent a cannabis farm
- Complete a full tenant reference on the tenant, and verify their ID with photo ID, such as passport or driving license. However, be aware that the criminal gangs who run cannabis farms are likely to also have access to obtain fake ID.
- Be very wary of full payment in advance for a full 6 or 12 months’ rent to avoid a tenant reference check.
- Cannabis crops can take up to 90 days to mature, so by informing any new tenants you carry out property inspections every 2 months you may well deter any potential cannabis growers, as they typically prefer to find landlords who are not as vigilant.
Suspect a cannabis farm?
The first thing you need to do if you suspect a cannabis farm is to call the police immediately. You should also call your insurance provider to inform them of the situation.
Hint: When the police enter the property you may be able to enter with the police to take photographic evidence. You have no legal right to do this however, but we find most police officers are willing to allow it.
In most cases the landlord will not need to go through the eviction process, as most tenants abscond immediately, however these cases are not always as clear cut and sometime a possession order is required, or at least it would act as a safeguard in the event the tenant was not criminally convicted.
The eviction process would usually be done via section 8, on ground 14. The eviction process can run alongside the criminal investigation. Some landlords prefer to wait until the police have concluded their investigation, whist others want the certainty and prefer to put the wheels in motion as soon as possible.
For the eviction case the landlord will need evidence of the cannabis farm, for example photographs, police phone calls, crime reference number, witness statements are also helpful.
Think your insurance will pick up the bill?
Landlords should always be clear what their insurance covers and what it does not when it comes to property damage caused by tenants. Pay special attention to any exemptions, as it often comes as a terrible double blow for landlords to realise there insurance policy does not cover the cost of the repairs required because the damage was caused by illegal activity at the property.