Illegal cultivation of cannabis is a growing problem within the private rental sector. According to Scotland Yard data, a cannabis farm is discovered every two days by police in London. Even in less populated regions the number of cannabis farms being discovered in rental properties is high – for example, police in Lincolnshire discovered 75 cannabis farms across the county within one year.
In the past, cannabis cultivation was known to take place in large industrial units or on unused farm land, but police are reporting that the majority of cannabis farms are now set up in residential properties. Rental homes can be attractive to growers as this allows them to spread the risk should their operation be uncovered.
For landlords, finding a cannabis farm in your property is one of the worst things that can happen. This type of illegal activity can result in your property being uninhabitable or becoming a crime scene – which would prevent you from letting it out to new tenants, causing a financial loss. It is even possible that you could be implicated for failing to take the necessary precautions as a landlord to inspect your property, which could put your reputation at risk.
Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance’s claims team recently received a claim from a landlord who discovered that their property had been turned into a cannabis factory by their tenant.
The landlord was notified by the police that there had been a fire in the property. The fire brigade and police that attended the property found that the fire had started as a result of electrical units being rewired to house a cannabis factory in the property. The unit under the stairs being the main cause of the fire.
Melissa Choules commented: “Cannabis farms pose a real threat to landlords today. If their property is turned into a cannabis farm, not only are they at risk of unwittingly becoming involved in a police investigation, but cannabis farms cause enormous damage to a property that can take a significant amount of time and money to put right. Your property may also be uninhabitable for a certain period of time leading to additional stress caused by a loss of rental income.”
Warning signs that landlords should look out for
There are a number of tell-tale signs that landlords should be aware of that that can help them to identify whether their property is being used as a cannabis farm.
Some of the key indicators are:
- Neighbours reporting unusual behaviour or activity at your property
- Your tenants trying to avoid allowing you access to inspect the property
- A major increase in electricity consumption
- Excessive fortification of the property, preventing easy access
- Taped up windows
- Excessive humidity coming from the property
- Signs of paraphernalia or ventilation equipment
- Any suspicious smells around the property
- Snow melting unusually fast on the roof of the property
How you can reduce the risk of your property being turned into a cannabis farm
Looking out for signs that your property is being used as a cannabis farm can help you intervene early, but it is better to avoid the issue altogether. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to minimise the chances of having criminal operations take place in your rental property.
These steps include:
- Carrying out regular visits and inspections
- Carrying out thorough checks
- Conducting background checks on all potential tenants
- Asking tenants for references and carrying out credit checks
- Checking that all documentation provided by tenants is legitimate
Carrying out these checks can help to prevent criminals from using your property for illegal operations. However, if you discover that illegal activities are already taking place in your property, then you should first inform the necessary authorities in your area.
If you need support with evicting a criminal tenant, Landlord Action can help you through every step of the way. To find out more, read Hamilton Fraser’s guide, The growing threat of cannabis cultivation for landlords.