How to weed out the cannabis criminals
Despite crime rates having fallen in recent years, the chances are that they will start to go up again as the economy tanks post-pandemic. So landlords should be alert to any signs of illegal activity being carried out in their rented homes.
Police in Portsmouth seized hundreds of cannabis plants at two rental properties in September and are urging landlords to pay attention when letting or inspecting their homes – and to be aware of the tell tale signs that tenants are operating a cannabis factory.
Insurer DirectLine has a helpful list of things to watch out for on its webiste. Some of these are:
- Paranoid behaviour by tenants, including a reluctance to allow landlords to visit the property
- A large number of visitors (day and night)
- Excessive fortification of the property (inside and outside)
- Blacked out windows
- Humidity: condensation on windows, peeling wallpaper, mildewed walls
- Sudden fluctuations in electricity bills or electrical wiring being tampered with
- Electrical wiring tampered with
- Powerful lights on day and night
Of course the most obvious signs of cannabis growing is the smell as well as the debris that growers often dump outside the property, such as soil and fertiliser bags; flasks, beakers, and rubber tubing; bubble wrap or self-seal bags and gas cylinders.
According to DirectLine, 94% of cannabis farms are located in domestic premises. And since 2003, increasing numbers of rental properties have been targeted by gangs of cannabis cultivators looking to house their criminal activities. They are more likely to choose rented houses than flats and tend to pick secluded properties where there is little through traffic, says the insurer.
So what can landlords do to protect themselves and their properties from this kind of criminal activity?
Here are some useful tips:
- Be wary of tenants who take particular interest in the electricity supply
- Be wary of tenants who want to move in very quickly
- Carry out regular inspections of the property
- Get to know the neighbours on either side of your rental properties and make sure they have your contact details.
The bottom line here is to always be alert to signs of illegal activity. Clearly robust referencing is vital to ensure your tenants are who they say they are. So do carry out in-depth tenant checks.
- Insist on photographic identification (check it hasn’t been altered)
- Take references from previous landlords and employers
- Check tenants’ current addresses
- Look out for utility bills in different names
Why not use our automated lettings platform PlanetRent to help you carry out thorough referencing. It's easy to access and simple to use, with loads of helpful functions to make your lettings journey really straightforward.
Finally, if you recognise any of the signs we’ve outlined here and suspect your property may be being used as a front for something illegal, never confront your tenants yourself. Contact your local police – better to be safe than sorry, even if it’s a false alarm.
Author : Maryanne Bowring