The number of cannabis farms being uncovered by police is on the rise.
According to a recent report from the Association of Chief Police Officers, 6,886 farms were found in the UK last year, that’s almost 20 a day. More than 1.3 million plants were seized in this time, a total of £150 million worth of drugs. click here to visit their website
The vast majority of these farms are set up in legitimately rented properties. Typically a landlord or letting agent is duped into renting out his property to a front couple who start off the tenancy and then hand the keys over to a gang of organised criminals. Once the gang have moved in and begun the conversion process the damage to your property can be severe.
Many landlords will take the right steps and get their buy to let property insurance in place, yet they won’t even consider the risk of their property being used as a cannabis farm, yet it’s one of the most serious risks your property faces. Quite aside from the fact that your house is being used for criminal activity, there are many physical risks that you’d probably want to avoid.
What can happen?
Cannabis farmers are known to be quite ruthless in the alterations they make to gain the maximum growing potential from the properties they rent. The damage can vary from moderate to extreme but it’s common for there to be a combination of electrical, structural and water damage after a property is used as a cannabis farm.
Internal walls are often knocked down, doors and partitions removed to make additional growing space for the crops. Elaborate, badly built irrigation systems are used to feed the plants, often leading to serious water damage. Damage to the electrical systems are common as farmers try to bypass the meter or overload capacity with the high-powerd growing lights they deploy. in a recent case, a gate at the side of a property was wired directly to the mains, am extreme DIY security measure that could have killed anyone trying to get access to the property.
What to look for?
Fortunately there are a few tell-tale signs to keep a look out for.
- Blacked out or tin-foil windows should raise the alarm. If your tenants aren’t keen on anyone looking into the property you should be concerned.
- Unusual patterns in electric usage are a good indicator of improper use. If the meter suddenly starts whirring you may have grounds for suspicion.
- Keep a nose out for odd smells. No matter how hard you try, the pungent aroma of a hundred budding cannabis plants is hard to hide.
- Unusual alterations are another giveaway. Has the tenant suddenly installed a load of bolts, alarms and deadlocks? What are they protecting?
- They try to keep you at arms length. If your tenants do all they can to avoid a visit from the landlord it might be time to get suspicious.
How can I prevent it?
Nottinghamshire Police have produced an excellent guide called ‘Keeping illegal drugs out of rental properties.’ Which explains what landlords can do to avoid becoming victims of cannabis farmers.
To begin with, it highlights the alarms bellls that should make a landlord suspicious of a tenant:
- A tenant’s willingness to pay rent months in advance in cash
- A tenant’s tendency to pay in cash without any visible means of financial support.
- Repeated requests from the tenant for the landlord not to visit the property.
They also outline some steps a landlord should take that should deter criminals including cannabis farmers from renting a landlord’s buy-to-let rental property in the first place:
- Use a form of photo identification of potential applicants such as a photocopy of their passport or drivers licence.
- Ensure identification is genuine.
- Watch for telephone, water, gas, and electricity accounts in different names
- Require more than one type of identification for joint applicants.
- Check prospective tenant’s current address
- Obtain prospective tenant’s mobile numbers and car registration.
- Properly reference and credit check the tenant.