Merseyside Police amongst highest number of investigations into theft of energy for drug cultivation in 2020

The average insurance claim for repairing a landlord’s property damaged by cannabis cultivation stood at £9,471 in 2020, according to Direct Line business insurance data, which would equate to £789.25 per month for those affected.

According to ONS figures , the average rent in the UK is £725 per month, meaning that landlords are in danger of making an overall loss of income as a result of cannabis farming in their properties.

Analysis of data from regional police forces confirms the extent of drug manufacturing and cultivation in the UK. It reveals that there were 1,427 suspected cases of illegal drug manufacture or cultivation in 2019 and 2020 in the UK, equating to 2 police cases being opened every single day.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of police investigations into the theft of electricity, where people have tampered with a gas or electricity meter so it doesn’t record the energy usage properly, are suspected to relate to the cultivation or manufacture of illegal drugs.

And worryingly there was a 36 per cent increase in suspected cases from 2019 to 2020, an interesting escalation while lockdown restrictions were in place and the chances of being caught – through being spotted by visitors or passers-by – would have been reduced.

The police force with the highest number of investigations into energy theft for the use of drug cultivation in 2020 was West Yorkshire Police, which reported 211 cases. West Midlands Police followed with 136 cases. Lancashire Constabulary reported the next highest number of cases with 110.

These three regions account for over half (55 per cent) of all investigations into theft of electricity for the use of drug cultivation.

Table one: Police forces with highest number of investigations into energy abstraction for illegal drug cultivation

Police forceInvestigations into the illegal abstraction of electricity for drug cultivation2020
West Yorkshire Police211
West Midlands Police136
Lancashire Constabulary110
Merseyside Police84
Durham Constabulary46
Source:  Direct Line business insurance, 2021, based on freedom of information request to UK police forces

Analysis of proprietary insurance claims data also reveals that Birmingham, Solihull, London and Taunton are hotspots for cannabis cultivation in rented properties.

The extent of illegal drug cultivation in England and Wales is highlighted further by data revealing that 130,751 seizures of cannabis occurred between April 2019 and April 2020 – a 21 per cent increase from the previous year.3 Within this time period cannabis was the most commonly seized drug in England and Wales – involved in 71 per cent of all drug seizures.

Overall, one in nine (12 per cent) landlords who submitted an insurance claim for malicious damage to their properties last year did so due to the tenant using the property for the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

Jamie Chaplin, landlord product manager, Direct Line business insurance, said, “The cultivation of illegal drugs by tenants in rented properties is an ongoing and real concern for landlords across the UK. Sadly, landlords can unknowingly become victims of criminals who abuse and neglect their properties.

“Cannabis cultivation can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to rented properties. Not only can this result in mould and water leakage from the hydroponics and irrigation systems used, but our claims data has revealed police raids causing significant damage to properties, too. It is essential to conduct proper background checks on tenants, regularly inspect the property inside and out and watch out for suspicious activity such as the tenant asking to pay in cash for months in advance.

“To provide landlords with peace of mind and value, we offer Malicious Damage by tenants cover as an optional extra on our Landlord Insurance policies. It covers landlords for damage resulting from tenants setting up cannabis farms that could cause severe structural damage.”

Landlords can monitor their properties for signs of cannabis cultivation by looking out for the following:

  • Windows and vents sealed or blocked off to prevent heat or the smell of cannabis escaping
  • Tampering with the electricity meter or wiring
  • Mould, condensation and excess humidity in a property
  • The tenant wishes to pay cash upfront for the lease and is keen to discourage any inspections of the property
  • Fortification of the building, such as an increased number of locks or window bars installed
  • Noise and light pollution from ventilation fans and lamps
  • Fertiliser and an excess of gardening equipment for the size of the property’s garden

For further information on the risks facing landlords and how to avoid falling victim please visit: https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/landlord-insurance/knowledge-centre/running-your-property/cannabis-farms-dangers-to-property

To find out more about Direct Line Landlord Insurance and the Malicious Damage by Tenants optional cover, visit: https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/landlord-insurance/malicious-damage-by-tenants-cover

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