Spotting Drug Dealing and Manufacturing in Your Rental Properties

Posted in Blog  
  on Mar 17, 2016

Drug dealing on your property is something that perhaps you'd rather turn a blind eye to. But it's serious business: Many jurisdictions in the U.S. hold landlords responsible for the drug-related activity of their tenants, if the activity takes place on the property. The exact nature of that culpability may vary, but it often includes fines and civil suits, especially if authorities have reason to believe that you knew about the activity but did nothing. In extreme cases, the government has even seized drug-linked rental properties from landlords.

If your tenants are dealing, growing, or manufacturing drugs on the premises, you need to know and take action as soon as possible. But it's a safe bet that your tenants are going to be doing their best to hide any and all illegal activity from you. What's your best course of action, as a landlord, to discover everything you can without illegally or unethically violating your tenants' privacy?

Look for Unusual Traffic

Sure, some people are just popular, or they host a lot of parties at their house. But if you see a lot of people trickling in and out of a residence, especially if it's at strange hours, that may be evidence that your tenants are dealing drugs on the premises.

As an additional note, it's not fair to judge the foot-traffic in and out of your residence in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic bracket, and other factors. Make sure that you're not passing judgment based on those factors. People of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, ages, and social backgrounds use and deal drugs.

Stay in Communication With Other Tenants

You don't necessarily have to be best friends with your tenants, but if you keep lines of communication open and maintain an open, friendly demeanor toward them, they're more likely to come to you with complaints or concerns. Are they smelling unusual odors on the premises? Are their neighbors getting a lot of visitors at strange hours? Are they seeing neighbors disposing of unusual trash? Have they ever witnessed, or been invited to participate in, drug use?

Remember that this is very different from asking your tenants to "narc" on their neighbors. You aren't going to them and asking them to spy on anybody, or turn their neighbors in to you or the authorities. Rather, you're just keeping an eye and an ear out for concerns as they roll in. This is something that stands to improve your abilities as a landlord or property manager in general, even if you don't suspect any drug use.

Look for Grow Lights by Monitoring Electricity Use

If electricity usage for a property is substantially higher than it was when previous tenants lived there (and assuming that your previous tenants were following the law!), it may be evidence that your current tenants are using energy-sucking grow lights and sun lamps to raise cannabis plants. Even if you don't cover utility bills, you may be able to get information about electricity usage on a property for the last 12 months by reaching out to the power company.

As an additional note, even in this era of compact fluorescent bulbs, grow lights are very hot. In colder climates, police check to see if tenants are growing marijuana in the attic by looking for roofs that are clear of snow, when surrounding roofs are still covered.

Additional Advice

While it's tricky to discern if your tenants are manufacturing or dealing drugs, it's potentially even trickier to figure out how to proceed when you have hard evidence that they are.

Some drug users and dealers (though far from all) will protect their livelihood with threats and violence. On these grounds, if you have evidence that there's drug-related activity on your property, it's best not to engage directly with your tenants about the matter. Communication is key in most situations, but not here.

Instead, go directly to law enforcement authorities as soon as you can. Lay out your case and all the evidence you have, as clearly as you possibly can. By doing this, you've done your due diligence. If you're wrong, there's no harm done — your tenants may be prickly if a judge gives the cops a warrant and they search the premises, but they'll likely never trace it back to you. And if you're right, you've let the police know what you know, so they won't be able to bring charges against you and claim you were hiding evidence or impeding their investigation.

If you don't have enough evidence, or you don't want to bring things to law enforcement for any reason, don't forget that, in most jurisdictions, you're under no obligation to offer your tenants the chance to renew their lease. If you honestly suspect illegal activity but have no hard evidence, you can simply invite your tenants to move on.

Tenants using or manufacturing drugs on your property can greatly endanger your business. Not only is it a nuisance that may harm your relationship with your other tenants, but it can get you in hot water with law enforcement.

It's important to investigate and deal with any potential drug-related activity as quickly as you can. While it's delicate territory, if you keep your eyes and ears open you may be able to tell if your tenants are engaging in illegal activity. From there, you can take the appropriate steps to keep you, your business, your property and your other tenants safe.


The Landlord Tenant Board: What it is and When it is Needed

Many times, there are issues between a landlord and a tenant that need to be resolved but are failed to do so, because both parties have gone too far with their actions, and have retaliated in the... More

How to Create a Residential Lease Agreement

Where there is a landlord, there will also be a tenant, and it is no surprise that these two parties can only work together once there is some sort of agreement, contract or a binding deal in place.... More

The Best Sites for Rental and Lease Agreement Templates

Many landlords find it difficult to write and draft a lease agreement. Since every State has its own general template, it can also be difficult to make sure your lease agreement meets all the criteria... More

5 Landlord Forms that Every Landlord Should Have

When it comes to being a landlord, one should know that it is not for the unprepared individual. This should be clear that being a landlord does not simply mean that you will be taking the rent and... More

Landlord Obligations: The Responsibilities of a Landlord

Becoming a landlord is a major deal and no one can simply get up and think, “well, yes I think I should be a landlord and rent out my flat.” If you are thinking that you would like to be a landlord,... More

The Best Landlord Associations for Landlords to Join

If you’re a landlord and want to manage your business in a better way, you should endeavor to get in touch with those industry experts who have the experience and the skills to help you do it. This is... More

The Best Landlord Forums

Landlords and aspiring landlords, do not become as such, without guidance and advice. There is a lot that goes into being a landlord nowadays; in fact, there is so much to learn that it often confuses... More

The Biggest Landlord Problems and How to Fix Them

Renting out an apartment or a house can become a constant revenue source for landlords, but at the same time, it gives rise to several problems. It is a fact that high standards, a strict lease... More

Landlord Tenant Disputes

If you are currently thinking of becoming a landlord only because it helps you have a constant stream of income, you should think twice. It’s not that you should not consider offering your property... More

Unpaid Rent

When you talk about the most common disputes arising between landlords and tenants, nonpayment of rent has to be there in the list. People rent their properties to earn money, and when a tenant... More