In the wake of the recent prosecution of a twelve-man gang jailed for 52 years over one of the UK’s largest cannabis factories that made £2m worth of drugs in Wakefield, landlords and agents need to be vigilant, as the number of cannabis factories soar in suburban rental accommodation.
This year alone, police have discovered cannabis in Bath, Sheffield, Leicester, Huddersfield, Grimsby, Cardiff, Inverness, Coventry, Liverpool, Dartford and dozens of villages and other towns and cities. What’s more, at least two cannabis factories are being discovered in Northern Ireland every week, police have said. One hundred and thirty cannabis factories were uncovered in Northern Ireland between April 2013 and March 2014. That was a 44% increase on the previous year. Since April of this year, 49 factories have been found.
The cost of cannabis cultivation can also be inflicted on innocent members of the public. In July 2013, energy regulator OFGEM confirmed that a third of all costs relating to energy theft came as a result of cannabis cultivation – amounting to around £70 million.
Cannabis cultivation by criminal gangs can harm individuals and their communities. When criminal gangs grow cannabis, they often rent residential properties such as flats or suburban houses and may bring serious crime into communities including gun crime, power theft and human trafficking. Organised criminals see cannabis cultivation as a low risk, high profit venture, and use it to fund a range of other criminal activities such as trafficking Class A drugs.
Danny Zane, Director of My Property Inventories explains: “Gone are the days of amateur enthusiasts with a greenhouse. The problem is national, occurring in towns and cities the length and breadth of Britain, affecting both inner city and suburban districts.
“Cannabis cultivation can cause huge damage to property which may not be covered by insurance, and can result in loss of rent whilst properties are repaired. Growing equipment and excessive energy supplies used to manufacture the drugs can also increase the chance of a fire.
“The cannabis farms are often found in rented houses, rented farm buildings and even warehouses. They can spring up anywhere there is a power supply and a roof. Landlords and agents need to be vigilant and make regular checks on their properties. They also should also look out for telltale signs that neighbours are complaining about, such as strange and strong odours coming from the property, or people coming and going delivering fertiliser and equipment, day and night.”
My Property Inventories has put together some tips on how to spot whether a property is being used as a cannabis farm::
- Unusual activity of people coming and going delivering fertiliser and equipment
- Lights will be left on continually and curtains drawn
- Strong and pungent smells coming from the property
- Visits to the property at unusual times of the day or night
- Windows of a property are permanently covered from the inside
- People often don’t live in the properties and only visit to maintain them. These ‘absentee farmers’ may visit daily or weekly, but they usually don’t stay long
- There may be a vent protruding through the roof or a rear window
- There may be noise from the equipment used in the house, such as cooling fans
- Black bin bags or laundry bags for the removal of cannabis, or by products such as used fertiliser
- Compost bags or gardening equipment left outside, usually in the rear of the premises
- Potential tenants who are willing to pay large sums in cash to rent the property
- Tenants always being out when the landlord wants to visit, and having a reason for them not being able to come in
- Signs that the electricity boxes have been tampered with, or excessively high fuel bills.
My Property Inventories is an independent, impartial and professional inventory service provider working with lettings agents, residential and commercial landlords, tenants, relocation agencies, corporate companies, embassies and various housing associations. The firm prides itself on its outstanding customer service within the inventory service industry and its inventory clerks are fully trained by the AIIC.
For further information, please visit Mypropertyinventories.co.uk.