Cannabis - harmful effects?
(on your investment property)
We've all watched the tv and read articles about the harmful effects of drugs and Cannabis is one that is often in the headlines. But what's that got to do with you Mr & Mrs Landlord? Well maybe you've had first hand experience (!) but leaving that aside for the moment lets talk about your property, down a dreamy leafy lane - where dreamy is drug induced and leafy is a certain plant you really didn't want in your investment property.
In my 16 years in lettings I've personally only seen two incidences of cannabis being grown in a landlords property and both times I've nipped it in the bud (yes, I know ......) In one instance an enterprising student had converted a wardrobe into a mini cannabis farm and in another, more serious incident, some tenants has started a full blown cannabis farm in the upstairs of a landlords property. On both occasions I'm relieved to say stringent inspection routines and the early involvement of the police minimised the problems (oh, and good insurance but I'll come back to that later).
Why is it a potential problem for landlords? Well it's surprisingly quite common, the plant matures quickly (3 months) and as it does a second feeder crop will be growing so you could get an awful lot being grown at once and it requires vast amounts of light/heat. Cannabis growers will divert power supplies and overwhelm your property's electrical system - potential for a fire. There will be damp and condensation produced which leads to mould and finally the soil and the watering used on it may damage the structure of the joists etc. If such a 'farm' gets too well established in your property then the time taken to clean the mess up and get the property available for relet will cause expensive voids - and what's really galling, if they just clear off you'll still have to get/prove vacant possession before you can relet - more delays and more rent lost.
What can you do. Regular visits and look out for tampering with the electric supply (actually have a good look at the meter and where the power comes into the house) and if the tenants refuse or unnecessarily delay permission for a visit, be suspicious. If there is cannabis being grown you can't miss it - it's quite a big plant, if they've smoked their own product (& they do) it has a distinct sweet smell) and the house will be extremely warm from the heat lamps that are vital to the growing process - don't let them deny you access to any of the rooms or outbuildings, check them all, if they deny you access to any part of the property, be wary!
Check your insurance because this is where you can really come unstuck. Many policies have a clause that will stop any payout to you if the damage is caused by 'criminal activity' and very few landlords actually realise this; so CHECK and get a policy that covers this eventuality. Also get yourself a rent and legal costs protection policy that will pay the rent and the legal costs during such a situation - they can cost as little as £130 per annum and like all insurance premiums for landlords, it's a tax deductible expense so say thank you to the chancellor!
Oh and by the way, if it does happen in your property, I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to sell the 'crop' to recoup your losses.