News

Landlords warned over cannabis cultivation in buy-to-lets

Friday, June 5, 2015

New analysis from landlord insurer, Direct Line for Business reveals there were 456,911 cannabis plants seized by police in the last year (2013/14), with many cannabis farms now being discovered in buy to let properties.

Their research reveals the extent of cannabis cultivation in the UK, with the most seizures made by the Metropolitan police (59,002), which equates to 2,936 plants per million properties. However the Wiltshire police force seized more cannabis plants per household than any other police force - 16,032 plants were seized, which equates to 9,613 cannabis plants per million households.

Police force              Cannabis plant seizures (per million households)
Wiltshire                                        9,613
West Midlands                              7,806
South Yorkshire                            6,638
Dyfed-Powys                                 6,060
Nottinghamshire                          5,894

Though the overall number of seizures has dropped 10 per cent between 2013 and 2014, a third of police forces have seen an average increase of 40%. West Mercia in the Midlands leads the pack with a 195 per cent increase in confiscations, followed by Cambridgeshire (110 per cent) and then Wiltshire (75%).

Police force               Top five increases in cannabis plant seizures
West Mercia                                  195%
Cambridgeshire                            110%
Wiltshire                                         75%
West Yorkshire                               71%
Dyfed-Powys                                  38%

Direct Line for Business has warned that landlords should vet their tenants carefully as cannabis farms can cause significant damage to their properties and potentially void their insurance policy.

Direct Line for Business has seen claims for damaged ceilings and walls that have been knocked through, severe water damage and fires, all due to this criminal activity. In addition to the financial costs, landlords could also face legal action themselves if it is proved that they were aware of these criminal activities or have received money or proceeds from illegal drug activity.

Jane Guaschi, Business Manager at Direct Line for Business said: “The consequences of a cannabis farm on a landlord’s property can be financially catastrophic. Landlords should check to see if their insurance policy covers them for malicious damage as it’s not just the structural damage that could have insurance implications, it’s the financial headache of the clean-up that will hurt the landlord’s back pocket. What’s more, landlords could face loss of rent and the stress of the legal wrangling during periods of repair or eviction.

As such, landlords should remain vigilant and investigate unusual tenant behaviour. In addition to carrying out rigorous tenant checks and regular inspections, landlords should be aware of odd smells, sudden fluctuations in energy bills and evidence that the electrical wires have been tampered with. If as a landlord you suspect your property is being used as a cannabis farm, contact your local police straight away. Do not confront your tenants yourself.

Direct Line for Business’ tell-tale signs that a property may be being used as a cannabis farm:

  • Excessive fortification of the property (inside and outside)
  • Silver ducting tape hanging out of windows
  • Blacked out windows
  • Low-level hanging equipment
  • Humidity: condensation on windows, peeling wallpaper, mildewed walls
  • A pungent smell
  • Excessive use of deodorisers and air freshener
  • Sudden fluctuations in electricity bills
  • Electrical wiring tampered with
  • Powerful lights on day and night

For more information regarding how landlords can protect themselves from malicious damage caused by cannabis farms visit: http://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/knowledge-centre/guidance-for-landlords/cannabis-farms-dangers-to-property.

Landlords may also want to read the Crimestoppers Guide on how to keeping commercial cannabis out of your property, available here

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