April 20th or, how others would refer to, 420, is an unofficial cannabis holiday that has, over recent years, become a rising trend, particularly in the US and the UK.
Although we do not condone the use of cannabis, as it is illegal in the UK, this particular time of year highlights a not so celebratory occasion for landlords.
Several years ago, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) claimed the majority of cannabis consumed in the UK was home-grown. This statement still stands today, as evidenced by current news reports. Our dedicated claims department handle numerous claims relating to cannabis farms each year, with a few cases resulting in complete loss of income for landlords. To ensure you don’t suffer from such a devastating illegal crime, we have curated a quick guide on how to spot a cannabis farm.
Listed below are a few handy pointers to consider during inspection or throughout the longevity of a tenancy agreement to ensure you or your property/ies do not fall victim to cannabis cultivation.
Signs of cannabis cultivation
- Strong and sickly sweet smell, which is different to the smell of cannabis when it being smoked
- A constant buzz of ventilation
- Large ducting tubes protruding out of windows
- Windows blacked out, either using black plastic or heavy fabric on windows, which are usually hidden by nets, curtains or blinds to not look as suspicious from a street view.
- Leaving or entering the property during unsociable hours.
- Consistent use of lighting during both day and night in the; attic, roof space or other rooms
- High levels of heat and condensation in a unit, leading to peeling paint
- Heavy condensation on the window may be seen
- A sudden increase or decrease in electricity bills
- Other obvious signs include bags of soil or fertilisers stored in hallways, sheds or garages.
What steps can I take to protect myself and my property?
The suggested following measures may help to prevent criminals from renting your property if you do not use an estate agent to let your property.
- Use a valid form of photo identification for potential applicants, ensuring the it has not been altered or is fake.
- Occasionally review telephone, water, gas and electricity accounts to make sure they are not being held in several different names
- Check the prospective tenant’s current address and rental history
- Obtain mobile phone numbers and car registration numbers of your prospective tenants
- Be aware that many criminals use a ‘front couple’. These people will appear to be a genuine, respectable couple seeking to rent a property for their personal use. After they have taken possession of the property they will disappear without a trace. They will then be replaced by criminals who will convert the property for the purpose of cannabis cultivation.
What measures can I take to improve the security of my property?
- Regular visits and inspections of vacant properties. If you are using an estate agent or property manager, stress the importance of them carrying out inspections during the tenancy.
- Keep on top of windows and porches being obstructed by external plants, allowing any unusual activity to be easily seen.
- Use lighting such as motion or light sensor lighting over all entrances and low energy lighting along walkways, as this will keep the property visible at night and could act as a deterrent
- Display house numbers and building names clearly
- Encourage community involvement and take notes of neighbours’ complaints. By exchanging phone numbers with your properties neighbours you are establishing a good relationship.
Often, landlords or property managers only hear of dangerous activity when the neighbours complain to the council or when the police execute a search warrant. As stated previously this can have devastating impacts on you and your property, sometimes resulting in complete loss of income or criminal convictions
These criminals are constantly exploring new ways to hide their operations, therefore being a proactive landlord could aid deterring them from proceeding with such activities.
If you suspect your property is being used for cannabis cultivation, we advise you inform your local police force on 101 and speak to your insurer to check the level of cover you may or may not have.
Read our best practise guidance on how to avoiding claiming against cannabis farming and the legal implications it could cause here.