Propertymark member agents and Regional Executives have highlighted instances where their agency has seen hazardous property conditions. This includes electricity being bypassed and cannabis being grown within a basement or loft.
What are the issues?
One issue agents have faced is in the checking of a property and where the liability of damage can fall; often, a tenancy agreement states an agent will not have responsibility to check a property’s loft or basement, or a landlord will stipulate that these areas are not inclusive of the tenancy. However, Propertymark says these are often the first places an ill-intentioned tenant will look to hide criminal activity.
The body pointed to one agent who found themselves paying out a settlement of £4,000 after extreme damages were caused to a basement in the creation of a cannabis farm. The tenancy agreement outlined that no check would be done on the basement, but after an accidental check was done at a time before the farm, the landlord was able to find legal grounds to dispute the agreement.
Perhaps more worrying than what a tenant may hide, according to Propertymark, are the steps some will take to secure their secret. At a previous ARLA Propertymark Regional Meeting, members of the local drug squad regaled the audience with tales of booby-trapped properties including, in at least one example they cited, door handles being wired to the mains electricity supply. As you'd expect, when faced with this situation, Propertmark recommends that any agent or landlord proceed with extreme caution.
Elsewhere, Emma Walker, ARLA Propertymark Regional Executive, told Propertymark of a time where her agency let out a property to a young man who passed all the necessary checks required. However, three months later they were informed of a possible cannabis farm growing within the property.
After police broke into the house to investigate, they were met with not only the cannabis farm but bypassed electrics and a generally hazardous property.
“The majority of cannabis farms in the UK are not set up by individual criminals but rather by fairly sophisticated drug dealing gangs who will go to extreme lengths to prevent anyone accessing the cannabis grows within a property," Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, commented.
“Agents should be aware of the liability that they could find themselves in so that they don’t fall foul and also remain vigilant and informed on these particular cases.”
Propertymark advises agents who find themselves up against issues such as the above should report matters to the local police as quickly as possible. The body warns that the lengths that these criminals will go to boobytrap cannabas farm is in some cases life-threatening.
To help with closing down the farms and securing convictions, agents will need to obtain evidence to submit to the police to as to what is happening inside the property – something which in some cases may be extremely difficult.
Propertymark says agents could do this by speaking to the neighbours of the property to establish whether any of the following exist.
Curtains constantly drawn
Cannabis smell coming from the property
Hardly any movement of people in or out of the property
Waste bags of soil-like material being left in the garden or put out for regular rubbish collection
Any sign that the external meters at the property have been tampered with
Little or no social activity in the back garden
If, on the balance of probability, it is thought that the property is being used as a cannabis farm, Propertymark says that provided the agent can provide the local police with ‘reasonable cause’ to visit, the police should execute a warrant and carry out a detailed search.