Simple Guide to Avoiding Cannabis Farms

Up until a few years ago cannabis farms were very rare in residential areas. However, the trend now is for the cannabis growers to move away from large scale cultivation in redundant farm buildings or warehouses. Instead, they are setting up smaller scale cannabis farms, often in respectable residential areas. Most towns and cities are now blighted by criminals running cannabis farms. No fewer than 134 cases were uncovered by the Police in Northern Ireland in a 12 month period, an increase of 44% on the previous 12 months.

So, how can you avoid and spot a cannabis farm?

Landlords may be approached by plausible tenants, even families, who want to move in at short notice and as an inducement they offer to pay 6 or 12 month's rent in advance. They offer this in the hope that the landlord will not visit or trouble them for the next 6 or 12 months. They may turn out to be a front for a criminal gang who quickly fill the accommodation with cannabis plants.

Top tips before they move in

  • Landlords should not be rushed into agreeing a tenancy however attractive the financial inducement. Time should be taken to ask the prospective tenant to complete an application form, do credit checks and take up references.
  • You may wish to request to visit the prospective tenants at their current address if they are living in the locality.
  • Ask to see some photographic proof of their identity.
  • Always check your tenanted property regularly, without interfering with or harassing the tenants, to make sure it is still occupied, as well as carefully monitoring rent payments.
  • Provide a weekly cleaning service within the tenancy which means that the condition of the property is also carefully monitored.

After they move in

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

Take the time to make an initial inspection visit a month or so after the tenants move in. If access is not agreed, look for curtains or blinds being closed all day. Also check to see if the lights are on constantly.

Finally, if the all of the above applies, approach the front door and lift the letter box flap. Cannabis is famous for its strong smell and it should be easily detected. If your suspicions have been aroused ring the Police immediately and offer them keys to the property. You should also tell your insurers. Cannabis farmers have been known to cause £30,000 worth of damages. Failure to do regular inspections may lead to your insurers declining to cover the cost of repairs. Finally, do check your insurance policy to check if you are covered.

But remember, whilst in occupation, and for the duration of the tenancy, tenants have a "legal estate" in the property and a right to treat the premises as their own, within the terms of the lease - harassment has serious consequences. The correct notice should be served to bring the tenancy to an end. You can find out which is the right one for you by calling the Landlord Advice Team on 03330 142 998.

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