Friday, January 09, 2009

Preventing drug factories in rented properties

I have recently been provided by Suffolk Police with an excellent guide to spotting and dealing with drug production in rented properties. This is an increasing problem, for example drug producers renting houses for the sole purpose of growing cannabis. This is very bad for the landlords as not only will it affect their reputation, but also considerable damage can be done to their property, plus it will have a very negative effect on the neighbourhood as a whole.

All landlords should read the full document (which you will find here) but here are a few tell tale signs of cannabis production:

  • Windows permanently covered from the inside
  • Visits to the property at unusual times
  • A large number of pots and lights being moved in to set up the ‘factory’
  • Tenants not living at the property
  • A vent protruding through the roof or a rear window
  • A pungent smell coming from the premises
  • Large amounts of soil and pots in the back garden
  • Noise coming from equipment such as cooling fans
  • Shared walls in terraced houses being damp to the touch
The leaflet also gives guidance on how to spot and avoid drug producers as tenants. For example:
  • Be very suspicious if you are offered a substantial cash sum ‘up front’ for immediate access – insist on all tenants going through your application process
  • Be rigorous in referencing potential tenants and take photo identification
  • Be suspicious if tenants ask you not to visit the property, particularly if they ask to meet you to pay rent in cash rather than have you visit the building
Apparently also many drug criminals use a ‘Front Couple’. These people will appear to be a genuine average respectable couple looking to rent a property for their own use. After they have been shown around the property by the landlord and have taken
possession of the property, they will disappear without trace. They will then be replaced by members of the drug gang who will convert the property for drug production or cultivation.

The leaflet ends with the following warning:

If you have reason to believe there is an illicit lab on a property and you have been exposed directly, leave immediately, wash your face and hands. Call 999, request the police and report what you observed. If you have reason to believe your exposure has been extensive, contact your doctor. Some of the chemicals involved in creating these drugs are toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic.

You can also ring crime stoppers on 0800 555 111

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Bill - KatSid Housez said...

Hi Tessa,
The laws may be a bit different here as I am in Canada, but some landlords here actually write into their leases inspection dates to they can check smoke detectors, furnaces, etc. The drug factory folk see this in the lease and they move on to the next place as this is to much of a hassle for them. If you are allowed to do this, you just have to make a point of pointing this out.
I have some other helpful hints available here for landlords. If you have comments you could add there, or other suggestions it would be great. To many new landlords don't realize what they are getting into, hopefully sites like yours and mine can guide them along the way.

Tessa said...

Hi Bill. Landlords in England do have the right to inspect the condition of properties under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (after giving not less than 24 hours written notice to the tenant), and this is often also written into the tenancy agreement. I agree however that a landlord who is rigorous in inspecting properties is less likley to encounter this type of problem.

Bill - KatSid Housez said...

Hi Tessa,

Thanks for the reply. I'm not sure if I was clear with my explanation, so just to clarify, in our leases we can actually put "Property inspections scheduled for March 21st and September 21st each and every year of tenancy."
It's written notice, signed and agreed upon at the beginning of the tenancy and scares off some of the bad people as it doesn't give them enough time for their crops to grow or their lab to be prosperous.
Of course we would give them advance warning closer to the date as well, but this makes them aware we are coming to check on our asset which is key to successful property ownership.