Finding out that a property is being used to make, sell or use drugs is possibly every landlord’s worst nightmare. Not only may you be dealing with a criminal tenant, but you could be faced with significant damages and very unhappy neighbours. When you rent out your property, you intend for it to be a home for your tenants. Having it turned into a drug den is one of those ‘it won’t happen to me’ situations. But what if it does? There are serious implications for landlords in one way or another when drugs are being made, sold or used in their property. We’re here to let you know what to look out for and how to make sure you’re not one of the unlucky ones.
The drugs industry is a wealthy one and those involved in making or dealing usually have a lot of money. To avoid raising suspicion or paying tax, this money is usually in their wallet and not in the bank. In a society of debit and credit cards and contactless payments, coming across a tenant who wants to pay their rent in cash each month should be a red flag. It’s a good idea to insist on rent being paid through bank payments unless the tenant has a valid reason.
On the flip-side, tenants with drug addictions may struggle with their money and could very easily fall into arrears. This side of the drug industry is much easier to identify, particularly if you have any face-to-face communication with your tenants. Look out for things that don’t quite match up, such as a sudden spike in power and water usage. Expensive looking cars can sometimes be a tell-tale sign. Of course, it’s important not to jump to unnecessary conclusions but noticing little things like this can prove to be very telling.
If drugs are being made in your property, there’s likely to be a strong or unpleasant odour lingering or heavy air fresheners to disguise a smell. This coupled with chemical containers, strange equipment and weighing scales that go above your everyday cooking paraphernalia mean that you could be dealing with a drug lab. You or the neighbours may notice some strange activity around the property - particularly if it’s being used for drug deals. Look out for a lot of people coming and going throughout all hours of the day and night, and possibly the exchanging of money. Quite often, windows will be blacked out or curtains were drawn in order to keep things as private as possible. Even if you can’t prove that a tenant is engaged in nuisance behaviour, these things are all worth making a note of because the police can recognise these as strong indications of what could be happening behind closed doors. Similarly, nuisance and anti-social behaviour can act as wide catch-all’s for drug-related situations - be that drug dealing, or drug taking. Any drink related behaviour issues, excessive littering and disruptive visitors are often minor things that can actually lead to unveiling drug crimes so it’s always worth the neighbours reporting.
Almost any property can be the perfect location to make or sell drugs, so long as there is privacy. Be proactive with prevention and install cameras in both hidden areas and well-lit areas as this will instantly put off people involved with drugs.
It can be really intimidating for neighbours to be in the hostile environment that drugs can create and they may not feel at all comfortable voicing any issues in case the problem tenants in question find out and become aggressive and argumentative. Keep a good line of communication with neighbours. That way they will hopefully communicate with you in confidence if they see anything unusual happening. It goes without saying that it’s also really important to vet your tenants thoroughly during the application process in a bid to minimise problems in the future. Quite often, a drug dealer will use someone else - or a number of people - as a front to sign tenancy agreements called a ‘front couple’. This could be someone who comes across much more approachable, again in order to not arouse any suspicion. If you initially deal with one person but then you never see them around once the lease is signed, this could be a sign that your property is being used to make and sell drugs. Make sure you ask for potential tenants for photo ID, looking out for fakes and alterations, and check their current address and rental history. Although front couples can be very hard to detect, make sure you ask for references, including one from a previous landlord if possible. When your tenant is in the property, organise a couple of inspections or meetings as an excuse to go to the property to check that everything is okay and that the people you initially dealt with are the ones living there. If your tenants are reluctant about you being at the property, make multiple excuses to rearrange or try and meet you somewhere else to chat, alarm bells should be ringing.
Drugs attract a lot of negativity and if you end up renting to drug-addicted tenants then you’re likely to be in for a bumpy ride. Drug activity can result in a loss of property value, a loss of rent during eviction periods and possible property damage arising from abuse, conflict and neglect. All of these things will also contribute to an increase in your property’s insurance premiums.
All in all, this is something that a landlord should take all necessary measures to avoid. Collect all of the evidence possible if you suspect something illegal is taking place within the property and communicate well with the police. If your property is deemed a public nuisance that threatens public safety and you haven’t been seen taking the proper steps to solve this, then it might not just be your problematic tenants facing legal trouble.