This article was posted on Saturday, Feb 02, 2013

When you make the decision to invest in rental property and entrust it to residents, you expect those residents to behave responsibly.  Once you hand over the keys, your rental property is in the hands of strangers and you must maintain vigilance to ensure the protection of your property.  Criminals are increasingly turning to rental properties as locations to manufacture illegal drugs.  Turning a blind eye to potential illegal activity could result in thousands of dollars of damage to your property as well and the possibility of fines and additional penalties.

Here are some telltale signs that your rental is a drug house. 

  1. Be wary of residents who seem overly interested in the electrical supply when viewing the property.  Unusual questions regarding the wiring may indicate plans to grow cannabis, which needs plenty of heat and light to thrive.  Growers often attempt to tamper with electrical wiring to bypass the electric meter, preventing the detection of excessive electrical use. 
  2. Watch for excessive humidity in the rental.  Marijuana grow-operations need a high level of moisture.  Look for mildewed carpet, peeling paint or condensation on the windows. 
  3. Watch out for residents who want to pay their rent up front in cash for the entire period of the tenancy.  Residents intent on cultivating or manufacturing drugs want to minimize your presence in the building.  Payment in cash also prevents you from learning details in the building.  Payment in cash also prevents you from learning details about their checking account, which could help trace them in the event their illegal activity comes to light. 
  4. Stay on the lookout for blacked-out windows and curtains than remain closed in the daytime.  Residents involved in drug production need privacy. 
  5. Pay attention to neighbors’ reports of people coming and going from the house at all hours.  This traffic pattern is typical of a methamphetamine lab or house, since addicts can stay up for days at a time and do not maintain regular hours for sleep. 
  6. Stay alert for strange odors that smell like cat urine, ammonia, ether or acetone.  These smells are associated with med production.  Additionally, skunk-like odors could be indicative of a marijuana grow operation. 
  7. Take note of excessive trash, especially duct tape, drain cleaner, lantern fuel cans and antifreeze containers.  All are used in meth production. 
  8. Beware of chemistry equipment such as beakers, flasks and rubber tubing.  Since the practice of chemistry as a hobby is quite rare, take the presence of such equipment seriously. 
  9. If you suspect drug activity, ask the neighbors if they see residents taking cigarette breaks.  Since ether, which is highly explosive, is used in meth production, residents who manufacture this drug must go outside to smoke.

 You should conduct a walkaround of the exterior of the rental property every four to five weeks.  If you suspect drug activity, contact law enforcement immediately.  Never confront the resident yourself.  A landlord’s liability for drug activities varies by state, so take action whenever you suspect illegal activity on your rental property.  You will want to terminate the tenancy as soon as possible to prevent lawsuits, destruction of property and trouble with the law. A. Kappauf,  

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