Signs of A Drug Lab in Rental Properties

Rental properties can be targeted as sites by people looking to manufacture drugs.

Illegal drug manufacturing can cause considerable damage to rental properties and cost landlords thousands of dollars in repairs and subsequent lost rent, according to leading landlord insurance specialist, Terri Scheer Insurance.

Terri Scheer Insurance Executive Manager Carolyn Parrella said tenants involved in cultivating illegal drugs, such as cannabis, methamphetamine and ecstasy, can go to great lengths to hide such activities.

“Temporary drug laboratories in rental properties can be difficult to detect if you do not know what to look out for,” she said.

Ms Parrella offers the following tips to help property managers identify any suspicious or illegal activity.

Conduct regular property inspections

“Carrying out regular property inspections will increase the chances of detecting any illegal activity, assist landlords to lodge insurance claims as soon as possible and potentially mitigate loss,” Ms Parrella said.

“It takes three months to cultivate a hydroponics crop so carrying out quarterly inspections will increase the chances of detecting any illegal activity as soon as possible.

“When conducting an inspection look for signs that the property is being lived in. Illegal drug manufacturers generally do not live at the properties they use to cultivate drugs, therefore the premises may appear under furnished or neglected.”

“Portable air conditioners are also often used when cultivating hydroponic crops.

Modifications to property

“Some hydroponic systems or temporary drug laboratories require specific modifications to the property,” Ms Parrella said.

“Check for potential tampering of the property. Some hydroponic set ups require pipes or hoses to be filtered through the roof or a designated man hole. Look for holes in the ceiling as they could lead to hydroponic systems.

“It is also a good idea to check whether the meter board has been tampered with or rewired. Holes in nearby walls or built-in cupboards are common in order to feed wires to a power source.”

Look out for unusual items or activity “Certain items are commonly used to manufacture illegal drugs, including glass flasks, beakers, rubber tubing, gas cylinders, chemical containers, drums, drain cleaner, acid garden fertiliser and cough, cold or allergy medicine,” Ms Parrella said.

“Portable air conditioners are also often used when cultivating hydroponic crops.

“If such items are present at the property and appear inconsistent with practical use, it may indicate the presence of a drug laboratory.

“Windows that are constantly covered or sealed during the day and night and rooms that are covered in aluminium foil are also common signs that drugs are being manufactured at the property.

“It’s also a good idea to regularly review water bills for the property. A dramatic spike in water consumption could signal drug manufacturing as more water is generally needed to cultivate drug crops.”

Malicious damage to property

“From an insurance perspective, any damage caused by drug cultivation, such as holes in walls and doors, through to damage to carpets and floor coverings is considered a malicious act, and likely to be viewed as an insured event,” Ms Parrella said.

“If there are intense lights being used as part of a hydroponics set up it may visibly fade paintwork. Look out for colour variations on walls, particularly behind hanging pictures or artwork.

“You should consider landlord preferred insurance policies to protect against this kind of damage.

“Once a tenant has vacated the property, insurance assessors can be sent out to determine the extent of the damage to the property.”

Report to police

“Many landlord insurance policies stipulate that malicious damage claims must be accompanied by a copy of the police report or the name of the police station where the report was made,” Ms Parrella said.

“If you suspect illegal drug manufacturing is taking place at your rental property, you should contact police immediately.”

For further information, visit www.terrischeer.com.au.

Terri Scheer Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 76 070 874 798 (Terri Scheer) provides insurance cover for landlords, helping to protect them against the risks associated with owning a rental property. These include malicious damage by tenants, accidental damage, landlord’s legal liability and loss of rental income. Terri Scheer acts on behalf of AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 trading as ‘Vero Insurance’, the insurer which issues the insurance cover. Terri Scheer has not taken into account the reader’s objectives, financial situation or needs. If you are interested in any of Terri Scheer’s insurance products, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement should be considered first. Based in Adelaide, Terri Scheer services all states, territories and capital cities.

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