With the ongoing debate about legalisation of certain drugs, it’s easy to forget - or be complacent about - the current legal situation and the number of problems the illegal cultivation of drugs can cause for Property Owners.
There are serious legal implications for the Property Owner when tenants are found to be using or dealing drugs in their Property. The law makes it their responsibility to take appropriate action and the ultimate sanction is a custodial sentence.
What should property owners be looking out for and what steps can they take to prevent cannabis growers gaining access to the properties in the first place?
The growing threat
One insurer, Aviva, is currently dealing with claims relating to cannabis farming totalling over £1.5M for residential and commercial property owners.
Police are discovering one cannabis farm every two days in London. A trawl through local newspapers reveals further examples such as a huge cannabis farm being found in an industrial unit outside Bristol in October with over 780 plants having a street value £780,000. A massive cannabis factory was found in an industrial unit in Northern Lincolnshire, with delivery vans being used to transport the drugs valued up to £4 million. As a further example an industrial unit in Kingswood was found to house over 1,000 cannabis plants.
What can property owners do?
The two-stage process for protecting your property can be broken down into; ensuring the prospective tenant is who they say they are, and then checks and vigilance around their property.
- Tenant verification under the right to rent – Landlords can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for renting their property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK. This verification is not only good practice, it forms part of their duties. See more here.
- References should be sought and followed through and a credit check obtained along with photo ID. Whilst wads of cash may look attractive, it cannot be traced; it’s safer to deal through a bank account and get at least one payment from it. Do not be fooled by appearances; criminals use families to front activities.
- External inspections should be carried out every 3 months, and internal ones every 6 months. For the latter the tenant has a legal interest in the property and a right to treat the property as their own within the terms of the lease. Therefore it's important that the tenancy agreement is clear on when you can inspect, and the notice required, and that this is complied with.
What do the Police say?
Police advice on what to look for includes:
- Check on recycling/rubbish day; are there empty electric lamp boxes, grow-bags, compost bags?
- Strong sickly smell emanating from the premises
- High levels of condensation
- Covered or blocked-out windows
- Constant buzz of ventilation
- Strong constant lighting day and night
- Lots of power cables and rocketing electricity usage
- High heat, birds on the roof and lack of snow on the roof when snowing
- Unsociable hours for coming and going.
For more information
Most insurers have an illegal cultivation
of drugs clause in the policy wording for residential property owners.
It’s important that you understand and comply with this to
ensure you protect your property and coverage is preserved. If you have any queries how this clause affects your policy please call us on 01424 718790 to discuss.