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Could you detect a nearby cannabis farm?

Posted on 2013-04-03

Crimestoppers have recently mailed 210,000 ‘Scratch and Sniff’ leaflets to households in regions of England. These leaflets are designed to assist the general public in being able to identify the tell-tale smell of a cannabis farm that could be lurking near them.

The police have cited an increase of 15% in cannabis farms found in homes from 2011 to 2012. Thousands of pounds worth of damage can be caused as ‘tenant farmers’ strip back walls, install high-intensity lighting and even booby-trap properties with doorknobs wired to mains electricity and spikes under window sills. According to Property Hawk, recent estimates indicate that costs to UK landlords could soon be approaching £200 million a year.

So, as a landlord, what can you do to minimise the chance of having your next tenant convert your retirement nest egg into a drug factory? There are some tell-tale signs of this kind of illegal activity:

1. Tenants who seem to have a collection of chemistry equipment when moving in.
2. Blacked out windows at the rental property.
3. Powerful lights left on for long periods of time,
4. Sudden jump or fall in electricity bills.
5. Tenants wanting to put deadbolts or alarms on interior doors.
6. Strange smells.

Source: Gwent Police.

As we all know, prevention is better than cure, so Nottinghamshire Police have compiled a list of indicators which should make landlords suspicious:

1. A tenant’s willingness to pay rent months in advance in cash
2. A tenant’s tendency to pay in cash without any visible means of financial support.
3. Repeated requests from the tenant for the landlord not to visit the property.

They also outline preventative steps that should be taken when vetting a new tenant:

1. Use a form of photo identification of potential applicants such as a photocopy of their passport or drivers licence.
2. Ensure identification is genuine.
3. Watch for telephone, water, gas, and electricity accounts in different names
4. Require more than one type of identification for joint applicants.
5. Check prospective tenant’s current address
6. Obtain prospective tenant’s mobile numbers and car registration.
7. Properly reference and credit check the tenant.

Often ‘front couples’ are used to secure a property; they appear respectable and professional and pass their referencing with flying colours, but once posession as been obtained they soon disappear like they were never there. This is why it is key for landlords to check their property a month or so after letting to ensure the original tenants are still there, if not; be suspicious.

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