abis farming continues to rise, warns Norwich Union

abis farming continues to rise, warns Norwich Union

Norwich Union, soon to be Aviva, is warning landlords to be extra vigilant when vetting tenants and inspecting their properties, with cases of residential cannabis farming continuing to rise.

During 2006/2007, there were 5,497 seizures of cannabis plants by police, an increase of 34% since 2005*. And in 2007, Norwich Union settled around 60 residential claims totalling over £1 millon. The damage can vary from holes made in the walls through to water damage or even to the property catching fire.

Mike Colmans, underwriting manager, property owners, Norwich Union: “With cannabis farming clearly on the rise, there is an increased risk for landlords and their properties. They may not be aware that if their property is damaged by tenants using it for the production of cannabis, they may not be covered if they haven’t taken ‘reasonable precautions’ to prevent it happening.”

There are some actions that landlords must take to ensure that this is done, according to Colmans: “Vetting the tenant is essential. As is carrying out extensive background checks, including checking bank details and references. Don’t accept payment for rent in cash but, instead, insist it is paid through a bank.

“Landlords should be wary if a short-term let is requested, and sub-letting should be discouraged. Once the tenant is in the premises, carry out regular inspections, both externally and internally if possible.

“We would recommend employing a letting or managing agent to manage the tenant vetting process and provide the inspection service on the landlord’s behalf. It is money well spent, as insurers could refuse a damage or fire claim if the landlord has neglected his responsibilities.”

The main warning signs to look out for are:

Cannabis plants are typically grown in individual pots throughout the property, with walls, ceilings and doors lined with plastic or polythene.
Windows will normally have blinds or curtains closed to obscure any activity.
Rather than having garden hoses plugged into a sink or basin, the plants are irrigated through pump spray guns, such as those used in a domestic garden.
High powered lighting is installed in each room and the electricity has probably been tampered with to bypass the meter.
A considerable amount of condensation is produced
A pungent smell, which may be noticed through the walls of adjoining properties, but ducting and extractor fans are often installed and fed through the chimney or flue to prevent this.
The damage caused to a property due to a cannabis farm can be extensive. This could potentially include:

Severe water damage due to the plant irrigation system.
Holes made in walls to pass cables from one room to another.
Fire damage due to the use of high-powered lighting and by-passing the electricity.
Tenants deliberately starting a fire to cover tracks if there was the threat of a police raid.
Colmans continues: “Landlords need to be aware of these warning signs and take the necessary actions to make sure that a potential farm doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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