Ben writes a lot on this blog about Criminal gangs and problems in city properties. However, you are equally likely to experience problems in the country.
Maybe even more so?
I was interested to see this post on Landlord Today which is about Cheshire Police who are appealing to landlords and letting agents to help them clamp down on rural crime.
Cheshire police report that they are seeing a ‘significant increase’ in criminal gangs renting large high-value properties in rural areas, in particular, in concealed locations, where they will be able to carry out their criminal activities undisturbed.
- Housing modern slavery victims, and
- Using the properties as illegal call centres, where fraudsters target vulnerable people and attempt to defraud them out of money, or
- For cannabis farms
Not something I am sure that you will want YOUR Property used for.
The signs of crime
One classic warning sign is if applicants for properties offer to pay large amounts of cash up-front. Landlords are often tempted to take the money, without doing many checks (as after all they are being paid so why bother?) and then leave them alone.
So be very careful if this happens to you.
Criminals often use respectable-looking people to apply for the property – they then move out and the criminals move in.
You should also be suspicious if your tenants never let you in to do property inspections.
The importance of regular inspections for fighting crime
With criminal activity such as this on the increase, it is more important than ever that landlords and agents do proper and detailed regular property inspections.
Indeed if you make it very clear as part of the application process that inspections will be done regularly this may put criminals off, as their activities are more likely to be found out.
Worryingly many agents are failing to carry out proper inspections, and the Tenant Fees Act with resultant loss of income to agents may mean that fewer and fewer are being done.
Landlords should make sure that agents are doing this important work – if they are not, then you can arrange for it to be done separately. For example, you can pay an additional fee to your agents, do it yourself or employ an inventory company.
Criminal activity is actually just one of the reasons why inspections are necessary – others include checking to make sure there are no unauthorised occupiers who may turn the property to an HMO, or that there are no disrepair issues.
Insurance issues – where rented properties have been used by criminals
Note also that if the criminals move out leaving a damaged property (for example if it has been used as a cannabis farm, which is very destructive), you are unlikely to be able to make a claim on your insurance (even if the policy covers this type of loss, which it may not) if you have not carried out proper checks or done regular inspections.
You can find out more about insurance issues with our free insurance mini-course.
How to do inspections
Many landlords who self manage baulk at doing regular inspections, feeling embarrassed about intruding on tenants privacy. It is also pretty unpopular with tenants.
If you want some guidance, then we have a well-regarded Property Inspection Kit which is part of our Landlord Law Business Level membership entitlement, or you can buy it as a separate product here.
In our survey of our initial users (85 responses) 77% said the kit had changed their views on inspections and how they would carry them out in future.
Reporting suspected criminal use of rented properties
If you suspect that your property is being used by criminals or indeed if you suspect that a property near you is being used by criminals – what should you do?
Report it to the Police. Ideally, they should have a department which deals with this type of thing.
Alternatively, report it to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit the Crimestoppers website at www.crimestoppers.co.uk.
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