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Cuckoos: not just a springtime problem but a year-round threat

cuckoos take over nests and properties

Landlords should be on the lookout for the growing threat of cuckooing, which can jeopardise both their property and tenant safety, warns one legal expert.

Cuckooing – named after the cuckoo that invades other birds’ nests – is the exploitation of a vulnerable individual, usually by an organised criminal group which takes over their home to conduct drug dealing, drug production, human trafficking, and other serious crimes. These groups target lonely or isolated people, often those with addiction issues, mental health issues or learning difficulties.

Eleanor Trapaud (pictured right), a landlord and tenant solicitor at Woodstock Legal Services, says cuckooing has potential legal repercussions.

Criminal investigations

“Unknowingly allowing illegal activity on a property can expose you to criminal investigations and potential legal trouble while being associated with cuckooing can harm your reputation as a landlord and make it more difficult to find reliable tenants in the future,” says Trapaud. “As a responsible landlord you have a duty of care towards your tenants; cuckooing poses a serious threat to their safety and well-being.”

Landlords can safeguard their interests by conducting thorough reference checks, maintaining regular communication with tenants and being aware of any changes in their circumstances or behaviour that could indicate vulnerability. They should also take extra precautions if their property is in an area known for high crime rates or gang activity.

Report concerns

“Be alert to unusual smells, frequent visitors, multiple cars parked outside, signs of property damage, or changes in your tenant’s demeanour. If you suspect cuckooing, report your concerns to your local authority and the police immediately,” advises Trapaud. “They will work with social services and other relevant agencies to safeguard your tenant and address the criminal activity.”

If you suspect cuckooing or have concerns about safeguarding your property, contact Trapaud at


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