Private rented houses have always been at risk of being turned into factories and we have been called in to re-let houses throughout North and Central Somerset which have suffered this fate. There may be a perception that this happens in isolated houses away from the general public but this often isn’t the case. The criminal fraternity can be quite brazen in seeking to convert any house into a den of organised crime. It might be happening in your street, village or even next door. The police are reporting that 20 cannabis farms are being discovered every day in England and Wales with heavy concentrations in the West Country.
The consequences of properties being converted into a cannabis factory can be immense for a landlord. The criminals tend to rip out internal walls installing huge amounts of insulation, heating and lighting. The heat lamps are energy intensive and the electricity supply is diverted possibly leaving the landlord with a hefty bill for the stolen electricity. With all this going on, it is not unknown for fires to arise.
So how can you spot whether your property has been converted? After a discovery, it is quite obviously apparent what was going on but it is so easy to miss the signs. Indications include:
- Windows being permanently covered from inside
- Unusual visits to the property during the day and night
- Visitors not staying long and no one living at the property
- Vents having been installed
- Pungent smells
- Noise from installed equipment
- Gardening equipment left outside
- Packaging of installed equipment
- It being difficult to carry out inspections
- Trenching or works to divert the electricity supply
Using a professional, alert agent will help reduce the risks for a Landlord. It is so important that landlords and agents carry out reference checks before signing new tenancy agreements and also use instinct in judging a potential tenant. The checks should confirm the applicant is who they say they are, that they have no adverse history and that they can afford to pay the rent. In addition, agents should be able to pick up a great deal of information from the potential tenant when showing them the property and a willingness to pay large sums of cash for a property, sometimes in advance, should raise suspicions!
If you are letting a property, make sure that you do the diligence and use an agent that you can trust. At Killens, we provide a professional letting service and are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Property Ombudsman.
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