WA landlords are being duped into renting their properties to crime gangs who turn their investment homes into cannabis grow-houses, causing extensive damage to the property.
Guest post by Consumer Protection WA
Consumer Protection and WA Police have renewed their warning to landlords to be extra vigilant with the incidents of cannabis grow-houses in rentals continuing to be a primary concern for authorities.
The joint warning follows a case of a 32-year-old Duncraig landlord whose Joondalup rental property was recently turned into a cannabis farm.
The landlord, who advertised the property privately, leased it to a Vietnamese couple in their late-30’s in September last year for two years. The property was inspected in January this year, but there were no signs of the cannabis farm at that stage, although some electrical problems were reported. Police recently uncovered the illegal cannabis growing operation after a raid on the property.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said crime gangs target private landlords who are less likely to carry out stringent checks on prospective tenants and less likely to be suspicious of a large upfront cash payment to cover rent.
“The driver’s licences being presented as identification are stolen or fake, and references supplied by these applicants are usually other gang members posing as employers or previous landlords,” Mr Hillyard said.
“If landlords choose not to go through a real estate agent or property manager, they need to do thorough checks on applicants and carry out a property inspection soon after they move in and at regular intervals up to the maximum of four inspections a year that are allowed.
“Apart from the damage and clean-up bills, affected landlords also suffer the loss of rental income while the home is being repaired so that it can have a devastating financial impact.
“The cannabis farm operations at these rentals usually involve the electricity being by-passed from the meter and a new electrical system installed to power the hydroponics. Combined with a watering system, the danger to occupants as well as neighbours and the community is significant, posing a major fire and electrocution hazard.”
WA Police report that Organised Crime Squad detectives are actively investigating networks of South-East Asian (predominately Vietnamese) crime gangs using Perth rental properties to grow hydroponic cannabis.
The majority of these houses are rental properties advertised online on sites such as Gumtree. The rentals are for cash payments, and the offenders pay several months in advance, which allows them time to set up the cannabis growing operation in the home.
WA Police advise landlords and members of the public to be cautious of:
- Cash rentals that are paid several months in advance;
- A large number of people frequently coming to the house for two to three hours at a time;
- Humming or bright lights coming from the house at night;
- Windows constantly covered; and
- Evidence of tampering with power or meter boxes.
Anyone who believes a property is being used for illegal purposes or has any information regarding criminal activity should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestopperswa.com.au. Callers may remain anonymous.
Consumer Protection WA
Consumer Protection Western Australia provides advice and information for WA consumers, businesses, landlords and tenants. Consumer Protection is a consumer affairs and fair trading agency that sits within the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety under Commerce WA. Areas of expertise include the Australian Consumer Law, product safety, residential tenancies (renting) and buying and selling homes.