Reports suggest that around 19 out of every 20 cannabis farms are in domestic dwellings - including buy-to-let properties.
Cannabis-farming tenants tend to look for properties in secluded areas such as cul-de-sacs, with litte through traffic and plenty of overgrowth obscuring the windows. They might show excessive interest in the electricity supply, offer large sums of rent up-front and be unable to provide ID or references.
Avoiding cannabis farms in your rental property
In 2013, police in Derbyshire issued a warning to locals about the rise of cannabis farms in local properties, including tell-tale signs to watch out for.
Landlords in particular were advised to be cautious; instances of rental properties being used to grow cannabis have been on the rise since the early 2000s.
The statement highlighted the £25,000 repair bill one local landlord was left with after tenants gutted the property, bypassed the mains, punched holes throughout the property for ventilation and left the outside to degrade.
It gets worse, though – not only might a landlord not be able to claim for this type of criminal damage on their insurance policy, but they might also face prosecution, a jail sentence, and their property might be seized.
If you suspect your property is being used as a drugs factory, contact the police straight away. Do not confront the tenants yourself.
You can be alert for some warning signs without having to enter the property. It can be a good idea to give your contact details to neighbours in case they spot anything, too. Be wary of:
- A sudden spike in electricity bills
- Lights left on throughout the night
- Blacked-out windows
- A build-up of bin bags full of vegetation outside the property
- Duct tape hanging out of the window
- Condensation building up on the windows
- Frequent refusals by the tenants that you visit the property
During property inspections, keep an eye out for:
- A pungent smell and/or excessive air freshener
- Signs of damp; mildew, mould, condensation, peeling wallpaper
- Evidence of electrical tampering
- Items like bulbs scales, self-sealing bags, gas cylinders, soil, fertiliser and chemistry equipment like tubing and beakers, left inside and outside
Be sure to vet prospective tenants
Of course, the best way to deal with a cannabis farm in your property is to not have one in the first place. Here are some pointers when you're looking for new tenants:
- Make detailed tenant checks. This includes photo ID, current addresses, old utility bills, and employers' and landlords' references.
- Be wary if the tenant wants to move in quickly, offers a lot of money up-front and shows a lot of interest in the electrical supply.
- Take mobile numbers for all tenants and make sure the tenants know you conduct regular inspections.