Drug production, human trafficking, slavery, prostitution… heavy stuff, and not the everyday concern of your average landlord, right? Wrong. Criminal gangs are moving away from busy city hotspots and out into quieter residential areas, where they operate out of rented properties – exactly like yours. But what exactly should you be looking out for, and how can you protect you and your property falling foul of these savvy gangs? Join the NLA's John Coyne, and Urban.co.uk's Adam Male as they discuss this chilling topic. Listen back here:
Q. If you suspect someone is using your property for criminal activity, who should you contact first?
A. The police
Q. How can a landlord protect their property from illegal activity if they are using a letting agent?
A. Make sure you use a reputable letting agent and that they conduct appropriate referencing.
Q. What kind clauses can you legally include in the AST to safeguard against these kind of activities?
A. A good robust agreement should cover anti social or illegal activity
Q. I have experienced tenants whom I strongly suspected were trafficking young girls from Romania and using my flat for prostitution. A S21 notice and threat of court action made them eventually leave. Should I have handled this differently?
A. You should have contacted the police if you believed there was illegal activity taking place.
Q. How can tenant referencing prevent this situation?
A. Referencing cannot 100% prevent this situation but background checks will certainly put off criminals.
Q. Is criminal activity ground enough to evict immediately?
A. It depends on what type of activity it is and what proof you have. Call our helpline for more information.
Q. How can I spot these gang activities during inspections?
A. Look out for anything unusual, large amounts of beds, smell of or drugs paraphernalia, maintain a relationship with neighbours if possible and give them a contact number.
Q. What can you do, if you smell cannabis? Who should I contact?
A. Contact the police, although some forces may not prosecute if smoking at home and large quantities are not involved.
Q. If I have an agent looking after my properties does the responsibility to manage this still fall back to me?
A. Ultimate responsibility rests with the landlord, but you should work together with your agent to deal with problems.
Q. What rights do landlords have if drugs are found by police but the tenant is not charged?
A. A landlord would then have to rely on serving a section 21 notice.
Q. I'm aware of being very suspicious of cash payments up front but I’m concerned about incorrect Right to Rent requirements. What happens if people provide forged documents?
A. Landlords are not forgery experts but should take reasonable care to check original documents are genuine and there is nothing that seems obviously untoward. Take a copy of the document.
Q. If incident like this does occur...will I be penalised as management and landlord by the local council?
A. Anyone who is given a false document will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent it is false. It is the Home Office that deals with enforcement.
Q. Where do we stand on proceeded of crime money being used for deposit and rent? Can we be made to pay it back? (landlords).
A. If you have done appropriate referencing you should be able to prove that the money paid has come from employment or similar.
Q. How quickly can the landlord get rid of a tenant who is causing Anti-Social Behaviour?
A. Really depends on the circumstances and what evidence you have. Speak to our helpline for more details.
Q. What to do if you know they are breaking the law but rent is paid on time and property looked after?
A. Report to the police
Q. How do I deal with a situation where I think that criminal activity might be taking place in my property but I lack evidence?
A. Report to the police
Q. What types of properties are targeted?
A. Any type of property can potentially be targeted
Q. If a tenant is committing an unlawful act in the property, and is in clear breach of the lease then would this be a criminal prosecution, or a civil matter?
A.The police would decide on whether to prosecute criminally for the illegal activity, the landlord would evict the tenant and sue for any damages (civilly)
Q. My house was completely ruined by highly organised people who farmed cannabis. The agency had not carried out proper checks and were advised to pay for the damages by ARLA but they refused. Where do I stand?
A. Contact ARLA, the redress scheme that they must be a member of, or sue them for the damages.
Q. What can be done regarding drug dealers (in a rented property) living next door to another privately owned tenanted property.....who is able to help? The police, Council, the drug dealers’ landlord?
A. All three should be consulted
Q. Is this able to be covered by NLA Insurance?
A. Need to speak to NLA Insurance to clarify exactly what criminal activity is covered on their policy
Q. May a Landlord enter without notice if he / she suspects drug taking etc? Could this be regarded as an emergency?
A. No this is not an emergency, contact the police
Q. My tenant has 20 companies registered on my property address. I also found out this tenant is due big penalties to Companies House. They are also four months in rent areas. How do I get them out before two months’ notice?
A. Serve a section 8, grounds 8, 10 and 11. This is a 14 day notice.
Q. If the police arrest your tenant and they go to prison - you will no longer get rent. How do you evict if they are in prison? What do you do with their stuff?
A. Exactly the same way as if the tenant wasn’t in prison, unless you can negotiate with them to surrender their tenancy.
If you have any further questions about organised crime and how to protect your property, the NLA Advice Line is free for all members. For membership contact the NLA at 020 7840 8900.
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