Illicit drug production

Following on from Part One, we continue with the dangers of illicit drug production in rental properties.

This article has been reproduced with permission of

Warning – Identifying one sign alone may not mean drug production is occurring in your rental property! A culmination of several of these signs may give a strong indication of drug production.

Warning Signs that You May Notice

You may notice these signs when doing routine inspections or visiting the property for any reason:

  • Bedrooms, sheds, garages locked and non-accessible for inspection
  • Doors to rooms and garages locked, and the tenant states that their partner has the key and they are away at present
  • Tools sheds locked, with extension power cords running from the house to a locked un-powered shed
  • Rear yard areas behind garages or sheds enclosed off
  • False partitions in sheds or in garages
  • Water damage to the bottom of built in wardrobes (after the plants are removed – usually found at final inspections)
  • Water stains, damage to ceilings, dirty finger marks on manhole covers or covers moved/removed (see photo)
  • Smelly socks smell/cat urine smell (amphetamines production – typical chemical
  • Hazy mist in the premises (clandestine laboratories create fumes)
  • Exhaust fans installed without permission, or makeshift ones present
  • Laboratory equipment, glass beakers, lots of chemicals – looks like school chemistry equipment
  • Unusual number of cold/flu tablet packets. However recently in Australia pharmacists are stocking cold/flu products without the active drug making ingredient of pseudo-ephedrine, thus reducing the misuse of these types of products
  • Chemical containers lying around – cleaning fluids, hydrochloric acid containers
  • Burning or burnt chemical containers in yards
  • Small plastic bags lying around – coin bags or bags suited to hold small pieces of jewellery
  • Sophisticated weight scales
  • Large amounts of tin foil, baking soda
  • Electricity meter and electrics tampered with, new wiring unauthorised
  • Powerful lights in wardrobes, under locked doors of rooms and cellars/basement/under stair storage rooms
  • Unusually humid rooms
  • Coat hanger wire (or similar) hanging from ceilings (see picture)
  • Unusual fortifications, deadlocks and alarms to interior doors, surveillance cameras installed, requesting bars on windows.
  • Unemployed but seem to be driving expensive vehicles, or their visitors always appearing in expensive vehicles.
  • Tenants wanting to pay their rent by cash and months in advance!
  • Weapons like axe handles or baseball bats sitting by the front door at inspections.
  • Metal drums and boxes on the property with labels removed or spray painted over.

    Warning Signs that Neighbours May Notice

    Neighbours also may report tenant behaviour to you that may suggest illicit drug production:

    • Strong cannabis smell coming from the property (this one is a pretty good sign!)
    • Lots of ‘smoke breaks’. People smoking outside all of the time (possible sign of flammable fumes inside)
    • Chemical odour coming from the house or from their rubbish bin/area
    • Unfriendly, appearing secretive about their behaviour
    • Paranoid or odd behaviour; watching cars suspiciously as they pass by
    • Blinds always pulled down over windows
    • Windows blacked out with black plastic or silver foil, or boarded up with wood panels
    • Lots of traffic and people coming and going, usually late at night
    • People coming and going from the property, but not actually living in the property (lack of activity at night time could indicate the property is being used only for drug production and not as a place of residence)
    • Constant humming of extractor fans
    • Tenants and visitors eating outside of the property all the time (due to the fumes inside)
    • Putting out their rubbish in another neighbour’s bin or area
    • Neighbours reporting powerful lights on all night

Darren Hunter
Property Management Trainer, Speaker & Consultant at |

Darren Hunter - of is a national and international property management trainer, speaker, consultant and authority on property management, specialising in fee maximisation and profitability as well as time and stress management and property management productivity.