Know your onions - and your tomatoes!

Written by: Mary-Anne Bowring 05/03/2019
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Could you tell the difference between cannabis and tomatoes?

One Scottish letting agent was caught out recently when she found a tenant growing what she thought was cannabis in the bedroom of a rented property in West Lothian. In fact, the letting agent was left red-faced when the plants turned out to be tomatoes! However, the agent was right to be vigilant and right to report her suspicions when she got back to the office. Cannabis farms are on the increase and growers often choose rented properties to grow their plants. The bad news for landlords is that the law holds you responsible if you allow your rented property to be used for the production, cultivation, possession or supply of cannabis. Weed is a Class B drug and the penalties under section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 are severe. You could end up with a criminal record or a hefty fine. So what are the warning signs to look out for? Here are a few pointers:

How to tell if it is cannabis

  • If you know what cannabis smells like, this might give you a clue even when the plants are out of sight. It is one of the major tell-tale signs of being near a drug farm.
  • Equipment such as lighting racks and ventilation fans being taken into the property may be a sign of tenants being up to no good – the neighbours might also have spotted such activity.
  • Have the windows been blacked out or permanently covered? This may be a sign that lighting conditions are being controlled for the cultivation of a cannabis crop.
  • Is there evidence of strong lights being left on day and night?
  • Constantly misted windows and signs of condensation might indicate the higher than normal temperatures being maintained within the building.
  • Growers are likely to be using ventilation and extraction fans 24/7 – you would be likely to hear the sound of these as soon as you approach the property.
  • Cannabis farms require a lot of power and energy – unusual cabling running out of the property could be used to tap into illicit supplies of electricity from street lighting.

Suspicious? What next?

If you or your property agent does become suspicious, call the police immediately. Don’t tackle any of the occupants yourself as they could respond violently. The moral of this story is that not only should landlords and property agents be vigilant and be aware of the tell-tale signs of illegal activity in rented properties – but they also need a rudimentary knowledge of horticulture!

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