Cannabis – The grass was not so green.
At the Bristol Landlords Expo recently I had a wander and was drawn to a stand that had a huge cannabis (AKA skunk) plant which was “in bud” sitting on the table. I could smell the pungent smell and as I approached I realised it was sitting on the stand occupied by the North Somerset drug strategy officer.
I engaged in polite conversation by breaking the ice with some humour saying “I have been sent over here because apparently this the stand where one can get a free biffta” after our courteous chortles (I seemed to find it funnier than the policeman!), I proceeded to tell him my story about my three shops with four two bed flats above;
Three years ago I was approached by a guy who wanted to start up a food outlet and asked me if my 3 derelict shops were for rent and if they were, would I consider a rent free period of two years so that he could invest into them and start his new business. I agreed on letting him rent two of the shop No’s 3 & 5, but not the third No 7, because it really offered no value as it had been deleted from the ratings list and we did not want to open it up and get a new rate listing that would be more than any rent ever achievable. We agreed terms and I left them too get on with it.
Every now and then I would drive past and they would be working on the conversion and although the slowest build on record, it was a fantastic and professional finish. I would pop my head in and say “hello” and always wonder how this guy could afford to build this property (which had now taken him some 18 months) with no income and just outlay. I assumed that it was his business so felt I should simply let him be!.
Until, one morning, when a Policeman turned up at my office and said “Paul what’s happening at number 7 Orchard Place” puzzled I said “don’t you mean 1 to 5”, “No Number 7” said the officer, “Nothing” I replied “it is derelict and no one has been in there for about two years” “can I take a look” said the officer. So off we went after finding the rusty key.
On arrival at the shop, all looked as derelict as it did when it was left 2 years ago and work was proceeding very well next door. I opened the front door and pushed it hard to get in. There was old furniture piled up and lots of stuff at the back of the shop and “what’s this a new plasterboard wall with no way in and no way out just a wall”. “Let’s go around to the shop and see if they know anything about it” said the policeman.
We found the shop door open and walked in. Upon getting to the rear of the shop we found that there was a new hatch that had been carved out underneath the stairs and burrowed through to next door. We went through the hatch and to our amazement found Kew Gardens Mark 2. There must have been over 50 cannabis plants growing in the back of the shop which the new shop tenant had boarded out and then turned into a cannabis factory.
I was lucky the police knew me and knew I was not involved because as this was my shop, I would have been a prime suspect and most certainly responsible as the landlord. The grass was not so green for the tenant who got 2 years inside and most of his possessions taken as the courts seized them as criminal earnings. It was assessed that in the 18 months he had earned over £200,000 from his operations.
What I do know, as a landlord, is that this problem is growing (no pun intended) because it is being fed by the very thing that will make it grow – a recessed economy and a growing population of drug dependant people.
So we are going to support the North Somerset Police force by bringing to the attention of our members that you may be the target of a cannabis growing tenant in your property, so we ask you;
Is your property being used for cannabis farming? (what to look for).