A Landlords’ Guide to Cannabis Farms: The Dangers and Tell-tale Signs
Cannabis Farms are on the rise in Britain, with private landlords one of the many victims of this crime surge. According to a recent Association of Chief Police Officers’ report, the number of cannabis farms doubled between and 2008 and 2012. And with 94% of cannabis farms being located in domestic premises, especially rented premises, this represents a significant and growing issue for landlords. In this article we will look at the impact that cannabis farms can have on landlords’ properties and what how they can protect themselves.
Which properties do Cannabis Farm Gangs Favour?
As a rule, cannabis farms are more likely to be established in houses rather than flats – simply because they need space to cultivate their plants. They also tend to choose secluded properties in areas where there is little through-traffic, such as cul-de-sacs, as they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. So if you are a landlord with a property located in an out-of-the-way location, you may wish to keep an extra vigilant eye open for suspicious activity.
What Impact can Cannabis Farms have on a Landlord’s Property?
Let us be clear: this type of criminal activity can have a significant impact on a landlord’s rental property with victims reporting damage including:
- Ceilings and walls knocked through and floorboards ripped out to accommodate cannabis farms, and improve the house’s ventilation. Or ;
- Severe water damage. Or ;
- Fires and explosions owing to the great amount of heat that cannabis plants need in order to thrive, or ;
- Furniture removed or thrown away to make room, or ;
- Wiring ripped out as gangs attempt to avoid electricity meters.
The consequences for landlords cannot just be financially catastrophic but legally ruinous too as landlords can face prosecution. In short, this is not an issue that landlords should take lightly.
What can Landlords do to avoid becoming hosts to Cannabis Farms?
Through a combination of vigilance and common sense, landlords can protect themselves from becoming victims of these criminal gangs. Coversure recommends that landlords should undertake comprehensive tenant checks prior to them taking up residency. These should ideally include:
- The taking up of full references from reputable sources such as previous landlords and current employers. Or ;
- The collection of landline numbers and not just mobile phone numbers,
- Obtain a photo ID. If the photo ID has been tampered with or looks fake then consider this a red flag. Or ;
- Be vigilant. Carry out inspections, ideally at different times of day, and make enquiries with the neighbours to see if they have any issues or have spotted any unusual activity. or ;
- Always be wary of tenants who want utility bills in different names: it may be innocent, but it’s worth delving into their reasons for wanting these. Or ;
- Amazing as it may seem according to police reports a frequent giveaway is potential tenants asking landlords for details on the electricity supply. Any serious interest in this area should also be regarded as a red flag.
Other ways that landlords can protect themselves and their rental properties from cannabis gangs is by:
- Never accepting cash for deposits and administration fees. In this black-market cash is the preferred currency and if bank details or other payments are not offered then this should be taken as a bad sign. Or ;
- Never offer very short-term lets. Rental cash coming in is always welcome, but cannabis gangs are notorious for moving from property to property in order to avoid apprehension, so don’t sacrifice long-term prosperity for short-term gain. Or ;
- Never agree to keep away from the property for the duration of their tenancy. It remains your property and as it is you who may be liable for prosecution if a cannabis farm is housed within it, you need to remain vigilant.
How to spot a Cannabis Farm in your property
Discrete as most cannabis farms try to be, there are some signals that they can’t avoid sending, signals that vigilant landlords can use to protect themselves. Below are some key warning signs that your property may be being used as a cannabis farm:
- Tennants who are unwilling to be observed moving in – this can be innocent but equally it’s a common sign of criminal intent. Or ;
- An unusual amount of activity when the tenants first move in – if you see ventilation equipment or a number of grow-bags then these should be treated as red flags. Or ;
- Paranoid tenant behaviour – tenants who are unwilling to engage with their neighbours and who have noticeable periods of absence. Or ;
- Blacked out windows and bright lights leaking from ill-covered ones, from under doors, through vents and other openings. Or ;
- A strong, sickly sweet smell – the odour of cannabis is distinctive and pungent and – despite their best efforts with air fresheners – it will permeate the surrounding environment. Or ;
- Unusual alterations to the interior – many tenants will want to do some improvements but signs of tampering with wiring, the electricity meter or the floorboards should be considered suspicious.
Should you suspect that your property is being used as a cannabis farm then contact your local police immediately. Cannabis gangs are not to be trifled with as they are often dangerous so always leave it to the professionals.
Get more advice on protecting your rental properties
If you would like to know more about how you can protect your rental properties, then please contact your local Coversure Insurance office. Their friendly team of property insurance experts will be more than happy to help.