Police are discovering one cannabis farm every two days in London alone!

There are serious legal implications for the Property Owner when tenants are found to be using or dealing drugs in their Property. It is their responsibility to take appropriate action and the ultimate sanction is a custodial sentence.

What should Property Owners/Landlords be looking out for and what steps can they take to prevent cannabis growers gaining access to properties in the first place?

  • Landlords can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for renting their property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK. Tenant verification is not only good practice, but also forms part of their duties.
  • References should be sought and followed through and a credit check obtained along with photo ID. Whilst wads of cash may look attractive, it cannot be traced; it’s safer to deal through a bank account and get at least one payment from it. Do not be fooled by appearances. Criminals use families to front activities.
  • External property inspections should be carried out every 3 months, and internal ones every 6 months. For the latter the tenant has a legal interest in the property and a right to treat the property as their own within the terms of the lease. Therefore it’s important that the tenancy agreement is clear on when you can inspect, and the notice required, and that this is complied with.

Leading insurers such as Aviva are currently dealing with claims relating to cannabis farming totalling over £1.5M for residential and commercial property owners.

A massive cannabis factory was found in an industrial unit in Northern Lincolnshire, with delivery vans being used to transport the drugs valued up to £4 million. As a further example an industrial unit in Kingswood was found to house over 1,000 cannabis plants.

How do you spot a residential cannabis farm?

Until a few years ago cannabis farms were very rare in residential areas. There is now a trend that is seeing cannabis growers move away from large scale growing in redundant warehouses and are instead setting up smaller scale farms in residential areas.

Once your tenant has moved in, drive by the accommodation early on the first rubbish day to see if there are lots of large empty electric lamp boxes, empty grow bags or compost bags.

Be sure to make an initial inspection visit around a month after new tenants have moved in. If access is not agreed, look for curtains or blinds being closed all day. Also check to see if the lights are on permanently.

Police advice on what to look for includes:

·        Check on recycling/rubbish day; are there empty electric lamp boxes, grow-bags, compost bags?

·        Strong sickly smell emanating from the premises

·        High levels of condensation

·        Covered or blocked-out windows

·        Constant buzz of ventilation

·        Strong constant lighting day and night

·        Lots of power cables and rocketing electricity usage

·        High heat and lack of snow on the roof when snowing

·        Unsociable hours for coming and going

Many insurers have an illegal cultivation of drugs clause in the policy wording for residential property owners. It’s important that as a property owner you understand and comply with this to ensure you protect your property and coverage is preserved.

If you have any questions relating to your own property insurance please speak to an advisor at GPS Insurance Brokers on 020 3907 7866