LANDLORDS could get help from police to stop them falling foul of drug farmers.
The plan follows the discovery of a huge cannabis farm at a house in Sunderland Road, Harton Village, South Shields, on Thursday.
It is the eighth drug farm smashed in the borough since December – and they have all been in rented accommodation.
Police say it is something landlords need to take into account when agreeing to rent their properties out, and are willing to offer a helping hand.
Sergeant Shaun Connolly estimates the damage caused to the three-storey home in Sunderland Road will cost between £2,500 and £3,000 to repair.
The drug farmers tore holes in walls to set up a ventilation system, and damaged ceilings, floors and the staircase to install complex electrical wiring. The ground floor of the flat, which was being used as a living area, was left untidy and dirty.
Sergeant Shaun Connolly, of the East Shields Neighbourhood Policing Team, was one of the officers who dismantled the latest farm.
He said: “People renting out properties need to be more vigilant.
“What tends to happen is that when landlords get their rent on time every month, they don’t check on the house.
“We are also finding that in the homes where drug farms have been found, the rent has been paid up front.
“If that happens, landlords should be suspicious. It might be good for them in the short term to have a year’s rent in their bank account, but if the property is being used as a drug farm, there will be greater costs in the long run.”
Sgt Connolly is hoping to bring in a system which sees landlords making regular checks on their properties, alongside police officers if need be.
He added: “In most cases the landlord has no idea what is going on in their property, and doesn’t find out until the lease comes to an end or we find a farm inside.
“What I’m proposing to do is to set up a scheme whereby regular checks on the home are part of any rental contract.
“And in the cases where landlords are concerned something illegal is going on in their properties, an officer will accompany them on the visit.”
Other drug farms were found in Chichester Road, Graham Street, Talbot Road, Mortimer Road and Westcott Road in South Shields and Victoria Road East in Hebburn – stopping an estimated £1.5m of cannabis from reaching the streets.
Sgt Connolly said: “In a sophisticated set-up, damage has to be done to the properties to install ventilation and lighting to support the farms.
“At the end of the day, it is the landlord’s home and they end up footing the bill.”