How landlords can defend against cannabis farming by @MarkTrenfieldMake Text Bigger
Cases of residential cannabis farming are still rising across the UK and, only this week, another Swindon rental property – in Durham Street – was found to have £160,000 worth of cannabis growing in it (see Swindon Advertiser lead story, 10th July 2012).
With drug crime sometimes causing property damage running into tens of thousands of pounds – how can the private landlord weed out these drug growing criminals?
Firstly, take care in the selection and vetting of the prospective tenants. It is good practice to take previous landlord / letting agency references as well as employment and character references. A credit check would also be prudent to ensure that the tenant does not have any CCJs for previously unpaid rent.
A new tenant vetting facility, called TenantID, is available where landlords can gather detailed information about the prospective tenant’s previous letting history from a national tenant database. More information on using TenantID can be found by visiting www.tenantid.co.uk.
Another tip is to visit the prospective tenant at their current address to assess how they are treating their existing landlord’s property. If they are mistreating their current rental property – they will probably mistreat yours as well!
If a tenant is unwilling to provide references, or the information given subsequently turns out to be inconsistent, or if they don’t want me to visit them at their current address – I immediately reject them.
It should come as no surprise that cannabis growers target those landlords who cannot be bothered to vet their tenants!
So, never create a short term tenancy with a tenant who is offering to pay rent in advance in cash (sometimes held within a carrier bag). Landlords that get taken in by this ploy – beguiled by the bag full of money I suppose – often find their property being used to grow or distribute drugs, at a later date.
Once the tenant has moved in – carry out regular inspections both internally and externally. Befriend the investment property neighbours and ask them to keep a watchful eye out for you. Give them your personal telephone number and encourage them to call if the tenants are behaving strangely or are being anti-social in any way.
Keep a look out for people arriving and leaving the property at random times, a pungent aroma in the area, large amounts of electrical wiring, chemical and compost and blacked out windows or bright lights all night long.
Landlord buildings insurance may be compromised if you do not inspect your property frequently. Your insurance company may argue that you have been negligent and may refuse to cover any damage caused by the criminals such as holes in the walls and ceilings, water damage, fire damage and the cost of the electricity illegally extracted to grow the cannabis.
I have been a landlord for over 15 years and have never had a cannabis problem at any of the properties that I own or manage – although I know of many local landlords that have been affected by this problem because of poor tenant vetting or non-existent property inspections or both!
Article kindly provided by Mark Trenfield at mlettings
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTrenfield
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