Saturday 21 October 2017

Duped owners face huge losses after drug busts

Donal Buckley

Property owners, including warehouse owners, are putting their premises at risk by being enticed to unwittingly rent out the premises for use as cannabis grow houses or as drug processing factories.

Last year as many as 77 grow houses were the subject of busts by the Garda Drugs Squad who seized more than €32m worth of drugs at 77 grow houses. After last week's raids on seven more growhouses an even greater level of seizures is already on the cards for this year.

These gangs continue to dupe property owners into renting out their premises with the offer of rents paid in cash. As a result the owners are at serious risk of losing substantial money.

In one instance a grow house in Rathangan, Co Kildare, suffered substantial fire damage because of the careless way that the drug gang interfered with its electricity supply.

In another instance the gang cut holes in the roof to ensure to ventilate the smell from the cannabis.

They usually bypass the electricity meter by hooking up their high watt lighting and heating systems at a point close to where the wires enter the premises.

However, sometimes they don't even bother to cover the wires and this can lead to fire damage.

Frequently the gangs remove or reconfigure fittings and when they abscond or are shut down they do not abide by the terms of leases which would ordinarily require them to reinstate the building into the condition which it was when they moved in.

Landlords whose premises have been damaged by tenants may find it difficult to claim insurance or find that their premiums are increased following a drug bust.

Gangs opt for properties both in remote locations that are unlikely to attract attention as well as for premises in urban locations which are sheltered by trees or shrubs.

Sometimes they also prefer premises which have more than one access point in case they need to make quick getaways.

Privacy is important because usually one of the first things they do after moving in is to install blackout blinds or shutters as well as a ventilation system and they don't wish these alterations to attract the attention of the landlord or neighbours curious as to changes in the appearance of the property.

But it's not just the alterations that may damage the property. Sometimes the police may need to use force to secure access or arrests and this could result in serious damage to property.

Not alone may the repairs prove very costly but they could also necessitate decontamination. Subsequently there can be loss of rent during eviction and repair periods.

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