Cannabis growing crime gangs target Perth landlords
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South-East Asian crime gangs based in the eastern states are renting homes from Perth landlords and turning them into indoor cannabis farms, causing extensive damage.
Consumer Protection is urging private landlords to be aware of this recent criminal activity which is costing property owners tens of thousands of dollars in repair bills.
A total of 21 homes over the past seven months have been rented by members of the gangs who take out long-term leases using false identification and naming other gang members to provide fake references. Once the lease is signed, they then convert the house’s interior into a hydroponic cannabis growing system.
This involves sealing doors and windows and installing false ceilings to accommodate the lighting required to grow the cannabis, as well as ripping up flooring to establish a drainage system. The repair bill from one property alone is estimated at $70,000. Further cost to the affected landlords comes from not receiving rental income while repairs are being carried out.
The power meters at the homes are usually by-passed and electricity is stolen from the grid. In one case, however, an owner agreed to include the power cost in the rent and ended up with an $85,000 bill.
WA Police are conducting an ongoing investigation and have so far seized cannabis crops worth $6 million from the properties and estimate the value of stolen power at $1 million.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said, until the police investigations are concluded, landlords in Perth should be extra cautious.
“The gang members are exploiting the vulnerabilities of private landlords who, in the current market, may be desperate to get a tenant for their property and may not do thorough checks on prospective tenants,” Mr Hillyard said.
“If landlords have any suspicions that their property is being used for illegal purposes, they should contact Police immediately.
“Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord can apply to a court for immediate termination of the tenancy agreement if they have evidence that the tenant has intentionally or recklessly caused serious damage to the premises. Under these circumstances, notice to the tenant is not required.
“If they have concerns, landlords should keep a close watch on their properties after renting out to new tenants. Although limited to four a year, they can schedule property inspections after giving a minimum of seven days’ notice.
“We would recommend that property owners consider taking out landlords insurance and check to make sure the policy covers these types of situations.”
Landlords who suspect their property is being used for illegal purposes should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 immediately. Enquiries about what they can do under tenancy laws, can be made to Consumer Protection by email email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
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