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Cannabis farming is a growing menace for landlords as police seized a record number of plants in raids mainly on buy to let homes.
Police grabbed more than 750,000 plants from criminal gangs growing drugs last year â€“ up 18% on the year before.
Now insurers are urging landlords to grass up tenants they suspect of setting up drugs farms.
Home insurers Aviva has revealed cannabis farm claims are up 30% year-on-year after paying out for a record 92 buy to lets damaged by drugs gangs.
The insurer also disclosed many of the farm seizures involved growing less than 50 plants.
Avivaâ€™s Matthew Gordon said: â€œAlmost all of the properties were residential and we often find that it is part of a larger operation or that the policyholder has had a couple of properties affected.
â€œCannabis farming comes with serious risks for landlords; properties can be completely ruined inside to make space for plants, water damage can occur and fire poses a risk due to interference with electrics or strong lighting left on for a long time.
â€œProperty owners must be vigilant and there are some simple steps that can be taken. We would advise thorough checks on tenants and regular visits to properties â€“ both internal and external inspections. Permanently closed curtains, blacked out windows and strong smells are all signs that there may be a cannabis factory on your premises.â€
Insurers say landlords and letting agents should look out for tell-tale cannabis farm giveaways like:
- Plastic lined walls as the plants are often potted and dotted around the home
- Windows have blinds or curtains closed round-the-clock to keep nosy neighbours away
- Watering is often from horticultural sprays rather than hoses or irrigation systems
- Lighting is extremely bright and generally electric meters are bypassed
- Windows and walls drip with condensation
- Cannabis has a unique, pungent smell
Mr Gordon warned Aviva may not pay claims for drugs farm damage if a landlord neglects to take â€˜reasonable precautionsâ€™.
â€œEmploying a letting agent to manage the tenant-vetting process and provide an inspection service on the landlordâ€™s behalf is a good option as insurers could refuse a claim if a landlord has been found to neglect their responsibilities,â€ said Mr Gordon.