It might be something you never thought you’d have to worry about as a landlord, but there is growing evidence that some tenants are using private rented accommodation for the cultivation of cannabis.
Time was, when criminals choose relatively large industrial and commercial buildings in which to develop cannabis farms, explains a booklet published by CrimeStoppers. Increasingly, though, criminals are turning to privately rented homes – where more than a million cannabis plants have been seized by law enforcement officers in recent years.
One of the latest seizures – reported by Landlord Today on the 15th of March 2017 – was in Motherwell in Scotland, where a tenant faces jail for cultivation of 93 cannabis plants found to be growing in his small flat. It was only when the presence of a cannabis farm on his property became apparent that the landlord reported the matter to the police?
What to do
If you were the landlord in a similar situation, what would you do? Might you be tempted to turn a blind eye? To do so is likely to prove a huge mistake. If you become aware that your let property is being used as a cannabis farm and knowingly allow the cultivation of the illegal drug to continue, you are committing a crime and may face up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited penalty in fines.
It might be in your more immediate interests because of the wider consequences for your buy to let business.
Turning such a residential property into a cannabis farm typically involves significant structural alterations – which, of course, are completely unauthorised by your local planning department. As the subject of unauthorised structural alterations, your insurer may decline any claim you submit for the extensive and costly repairs likely to be incurred after the event.
Structural alterations are not the only form of serious damage likely to be caused by such illegal activity. A cannabis farm typically requires a continuous and extensive supply of both electricity and water. Little care – for structural damage or safety – is going to be taken by criminals routing further electrical cables and water pipes through your property.
The cost of repairs to the damage done in this way might easily run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Bills racked up through the abundant use of electricity and water are most unlikely to have been paid by your rogue tenants, of course – leaving you to foot the bill.
In addition, the use and storage of volatile and flammable chemicals used in the cultivation of the crop inevitably increase the risk of fire.
Clearly, all of this has serious implications for your landlord’s insurance cover. For that reason, we have prepared an extensive guide to landlords and cannabis farms, which you might care to read in more detail.
Finally, you might be warned that the discover of your let property being used as an illegal cannabis farm is likely to be only the start of your problems. Any face to face contact with criminal tenants – even once the police have become involved – is going to be both unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
You are still left with the further worry, hassle, and expense of securing their eviction from your premises. Only once they have been evicted and you have completed what are likely to be extensive repairs to the property, are you once again in a position to generate any income from rents.