The Impact of Cannabis Farms on Rental Properties

Police want landlords to smoke out cannabis growers renting private homes as a front for drug farms. 

The first campaign has started in the southwest, where the police commissioners have launched a joint task force aiming to clear cannabis farms from the streets of cities like Bristol, Swindon and Exeter.

At the launch of Operation Scorpion, the commissioners appealed to landlords and letting agents to weed out renters suspected of running drug operations.

Enlisting help from landlords is just one aspect of the operation, which aims to disrupt organised crime gangs profiting from growing and selling cannabis.

Police are asking landlords to tip them off about tenants asking for privacy by paying several months' rent in advance or avoiding property inspections.

Tell-tale signs

They also want to know about homes with blacked-out windows and lights on around the clock, as both are tell-tale signs of drug cultivation.

Landlords and letting agents can either talk to local police officers about their concerns or go to the Crimestoppers website.

Crimestoppers warns that cannabis farms can bring serious crime into a neighbourhood.

“Wherever they are set up and operate, they increase the risk of violence affecting the neighbourhood,” says the website.

“ With rival gangs and opportunistic criminals regularly breaking into grow houses and farms to steal crops and equipment, violence can often break out in the middle of the day or night. These exchanges include guns, and innocent people are caught in the crossfire.”

Human trafficking

The police also warned some people involved in cultivating cannabis farms are victims of human trafficking and forced to grow the drug against their will.

Police say the way to spot a cannabis farm is to look for some obvious signs:

  • Cannabis plants have a strong, sweet smell.
  • Windows suffer from condensation and are blacked out and sealed to stop the cannabis aroma pervading the neighbourhood.
  • In cold weather, birds gather on the roof, while snow or ice quickly melts
  • Farms may have a flow of visitors throughout the day and night
  • Growers tamper with electric meters to bypass restrictions on supply

Meanwhile, a pensioner commercial landlord was jailed for three and a half years for renting her three upmarket guest houses to a drugs gang to set up cannabis farms.

Yoko Banks, 73, of Harrogate, pleaded guilty to being concerned with the supply of cannabis.

Landlord paid £12k rent a month for a drug farm

A judge at a Leeds Crown Court confiscation of crime profits hearing told Banks she must repay £142,000 for her part in the operation. She has three months to pay or must return to prison, where she has served half her sentence.

The court heard she has property assets of more than £565,000.

The crime gang had invested tens of thousands of pounds into fitting out the properties to grow cannabis on an industrial scale. The prosecution outlined the operation, which detectives said had generated £345,000 in cash.

Cameras at the properties were linked to the internet so the gang could watch their farms from London.

The gang had agreed to pay Banks £12,000 a month in rent for her part in the operation.

Cannabis and drug farm FAQ

Is cannabis a controlled drug?

Cannabis is a Class B substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Possessing, supplying, cultivating, importing or exporting the drug is illegal except under a Home Office licence.

However, cannabis-based products are excluded from the law when used for medical purposes, including hemp fibre and cannabis oils.

How popular is cannabis?

Cannabis is the most misused drug in the UK and has consistently ranked as such since records started in 1995.

In 2022, the Office for National Statistics reported 7.4 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59 and 16.2 per cent of adults between 16 and 24 used cannabis in the last year.

More than a third of adults (38.7 per cent) aged 16 to 59 years who used cannabis in the past year used the drug more than once a month, with 11.5 per cent using it daily.

Who uses cannabis?

The ONS study concluded those earning less than £10,400 a year tend to use cannabis -  which amounts to 13 per cent of drug users. Higher earners - with jobs paying £52,000 or more - tend to use Class A drugs, such as cocaine.

However, cannabis use spreads across all income groups:

Proportion of adults aged 16 to 59 years who reported using a drug in the last year by total household income, England and Wales, year ending June 2022

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