Commissioner's blog: More rental homes go to pot
It’s every landlord’s worst nightmare – receiving a call from the police with the news their investment property has been turned into a hydroponic cannabis farm.
Unfortunately that’s the reality for a growing number of Western Australian landlords recently, following further raids by the Organised Crime Squad, which continues investigating networks of Vietnamese crime gangs posing as tenants to use rental homes for this purpose.
Private landlords advertising through classified sites such as Gumtree are most often targeted, as they are believed to be less likely to carry out stringent checks on prospective tenants and be less suspicious of a large upfront cash payment to cover rent.
Driver’s licences provided as identification are either stolen or fake, while references supplied by the applicants are usually other gang members posing as employers or previous landlords.
These grow-houses can have a devastating financial impact– aside from the damage and clean-up bills, affected landlords also suffer the loss of rental income while the home is being repaired.
Then there is the risk of fire and electrocution to the occupants and neighbours, as these operations combine a watering system with electricity bypassed from the meter to create a new electrical system to power the hydroponics.
Stay vigilant by knowing the signs:
- Cash rentals paid several months in advance;
- A large number of people frequently coming to the house for two to three hours at a time;
- Humming or bright lights coming from the house at night;
- Windows constantly covered; and
- Evidence of tampering with power or meter boxes.
If landlords choose not to go through a real estate agent or property manager, they need to do thorough checks on applicants and carry out a property inspection soon after they move in and at regular intervals up to the maximum of four inspections a year that are allowed.
Anyone who believes a property is being used for illegal purposes should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestopperswa.com.au. Callers may remain anonymous.
Enquiries about what landlords 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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