According to ITV News, more than 20 cannabis farms and factories were discovered by police every day last year as they seized drugs which could sell for £100 million on the streets. A total of 7,865 farms were found across the UK in 2011/12, up 15% from 6,866 in 2009/10 and more than a 150% increase from the 3,032 identified four years ago, the study by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) found.
Cannabis factories are regularly found in rented properties, and these farms are often operated by criminal gangs who will perform large scale alterations to the property; including removal of walls and changes to the electricity supply. The result is often tens of thousands of pounds of damage to a landlord’s property and a much greater risk of fire. According to Property Hawk, recent estimates indicate that costs to UK landlords could soon be approaching £200 million a year.
The police are urging landlords to be more conscientious when it comes to vetting their tenants. Many drug gangs will use respectable looking ‘front couples’ to view and secure the letting, so if that couple is no longer there a month down the line, be suspicious. Other signs can be a sudden jump/fall in electricity bills; tenants wanting to increase the security of the property, the willingness to pay a large sum of cash upfront, the reluctance of the tenants agreeing to visits by the landlord/letting agent, and strange smells from the property.
Ian Fraser, Managing Director of HomeLet says, “Cannabis factories are a very real threat to landlords. They can leave properties in incredibly poor states and the repair bill can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Not all Landlord Insurance policies will cover damage made by tenants operating a cannabis factory. If you have a landlord insurance policy, you must check that you are covered for damage of this nature, which is usually included in the malicious damage section”.