Landlord Blog: Weeding Out Rogue Tenants

Published: 17/01/2014

I know it sounds extreme but we are seeing a growing trend in private rental properties being used as cannabis farms – I know it all feels very Breaking Bad! National surveying firm, e.surv, are finding, on average, one case a month so what should you do is you discover your property is being used to cultivate cannabis?

Well step one is pretty obvious – alert the police. Once the police have come and seized the merchandise, many landlords presume that they are then free to let the property out to new tenants albeit after a thorough spring clean! But this is where you can come a-cropper!

It’s fair to assume that once the discovery has been made the tenant is somewhat unlikely to stick around thus leaving the property vacant. However should the ‘incident’ occur midway through the tenancy a landlord should still follow the correct procedure in the same way they would if any tenant did a vanishing act. This means issuing a Section 8 Notice or a Section 21 Notice with a view to formally bring the tenancy to an end.

I appreciate this can be frustrating and could result in an empty property and consequently loss of earnings but by going about things in the right way you’ll prevent any potential backlash.

Many may scoff at the extra, and seemingly unnecessary, legwork – what idiot would return to the ‘scene of the crime’ you may ask. Well believe it or not we’ve actually had one case where some of the tenant’s ‘associates’ did try and get back into the property to recover the equipment!

Ultimately life would be a lot simpler if such situations never happened but occasionally they do so let’s think about the potential red flags which could alert landlords to such activity.

The first is a tenant offering to pay for six months rent upfront. Firstly if you’re flush enough to have six months rent readily available why are you renting in the first place and secondly why would you?! In my experience no tenant is that forthcoming with their rent. In reality they are probably desperately trying to limit the reasons you may have for contacting them.

The second is their reluctance to let you into the property. Whilst they may not be doing anything as extreme as growing cannabis, if a tenant is dodging your calls or failing to let you carry out an inspection the news is unlikely to be good.

Finally buddy up with the neighbourhood watch. It’s always a good idea to cosy up with the neighbours and not just because they become good friends. They are obviously there more often than you and can therefore act as your eyes and ears, Watson to your Sherlock, alerting you to any suspicious goings-on.

As always the key is to be vigilant and maintain good communication and trust no-one! If a 50-year-old, married-with-two-kids science teacher can be lured into this murky world your tenants could be too! OK no more Breaking Bad for me!

Rob DenmanRob Denman is a solicitor and Head of GW LET (Landlord Empowerment Team), specialising in such landlord legal issues as rent arrears, tenant eviction and tenancy deposit disputes. In his spare time Rob enjoys watching football and running. He is currently training for his second half marathon.

Content correct at time of publication

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