If you have a nice property in a respectable street in Sawbridgeworth and Bishop's Stortford, you probably would never imagine that criminal gangs would ever target you. Well, think again.
Cannabis farms are a widespread and persistent issue; as soon as the police crackdown in one location, the problem springs up elsewhere.
And the scale of the crime is staggering. In June 5,000 plants valued at £3.5 million were seized from Leicestershire properties. In Nottinghamshire, police captured £4 million worth of cannabis plants during the lockdown.
But it’s a problem that stretches across the UK, often in the least likely places.
It’s a nasty business which can have severe ramifications for landlords and often results in:
Major damage: Crooks often remove walls to increase production, causing structural damage. They also tamper with the electrics and water to bypass the mains (to avoid generating sky-high bills that raise suspicions).
Insurance disputes: Not all policies cover criminal activity. And even if you are covered, your insurer may argue that you were not vigilant and refuse to pay. The cost of repairs, loss of rent and for removal of drug production equipment can top £40,000.
Criminal charges: If the police think you turned a blind eye to criminal activity, they could charge you under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison.
Stress: It’s time-consuming and emotionally draining recovering your property from criminal gangs.
There are things you can do to protect your property from the criminals.
Look out for:
- Tenants who offer to pay rent in cash, in advance.
- Tenants who can’t provide official ID such as a driver’s licence or a passport.
- Anything that doesn’t sit quite right with you when you are doing background checks. Be rigorous with references and remember gangs often send in respectable looking “front couples” to secure the tenancy.
Once you have a tenant in your property, regular inspections are vital. Without them, you could be accused of not meeting your obligations. It would help if you were suspicious of:
- Tenants who continuously come up with excuses to stop you visiting the property.
- Unusual equipment such as large-scale lighting, ventilation, or tubing.
- Blacked out windows or condensation on the windows.
- An unusual, sweet smell. (Note: the odour is different to that of cannabis being smoked).
- Bright lights on 24 hours a day.
- Many bin bags outside the property. These could contain the stalks and roots of plants that have been harvested.
- Sudden changes in electricity and water bills.
- Unusual security measures such as deadbolts and alarms on doors.
As a landlord, you need to be rigorous and consistent. If you can’t dedicate the time to meet your obligations or you don’t have the expertise, then draw on the services of an expert who can.
All the above steps to protect your property are carried out by us routinely. And we follow the rental property industry news to keep updated on the different techniques the criminals use to try to dupe innocent landlords.
Here at Sawbridgeworth and Bishop’s Stortford, we can take the burden of all of the above off your shoulders so you can rest easy in the knowledge that your property is in safe hands.
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