Landlords, Be Vigilant--watch for signs of illegal activity

Nothing can make a landlord sicker than walking into a recently vacated apartment and discovering it was used for illegal drug activity or worse.  I recall an episode of Holmes on Homes a couple of years ago where the contractor star of the show helped out a home owner whose rental home was trashed by tenants using it for a pot growing operations. The damage was catastrophic.

 
Often there are no warning signs initially when the rental application is being taken, as such individuals will take great care to appear respectable and stable or will send in a ringer to rent the apartment or house on their behalf.  As a landlord, the last thing you want is to face disputes with your other tenants and neighbors, police action on your property or massive damage to your property. Any or all of these consequences can result if you ignore the warning signs.

 
One sign of illegal activity is frequent visitors--particularly visits that last only a few minutes in duration and those where the visitors bring along easily hocked items such as consumer electronics and leave without it. You or your property manager should work to keep a dialog going with your tenants, or even, if renting a home, the neighbors. These are the people that can tell you about the activity they observe. 

 
Other signs may be:
  • Sudden, unusual spike in utility use--drug operations need a lot of water and electricity.  Out of the blue, you may be receiving tenant complaints about water pressure when that hasn't been an issue before. 
  • Odd mechanical noises that may relate to a large number of fans in operation.  Have you been receiving complaints regarding unusual noises?
  • Windows that are blacked out or otherwise blocked during the day to keep people from seeing the activity inside.
  • Tampering around the meters--some tenants are smart enough to know their use of water and electricity can raise suspician and try to tamper with the meters to mask their usage.
  • Avoiding interaction with the landlord and/or property management.
  • The person(s) primarily occupying the unit or house is not the person who completed the rental application.

The bottomline, as a landlord you should know your property and your tenants so you can become sensitized to anomalies that might indicate a problem is brewing.

 
 

 

 


 

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