A South Tyneside landlord leader says property owners are fighting a losing battle to combat tenants setting up cannabis farms – after being locked out by criminal gangs.
Private landlord Colin Campbell, who is chairman of the borough’s Landlords Association, has revealed the trail of destruction caused by drug operations after a huge cannabis haul was uncovered during a police raid in Dean Road, South Shields, this week.
Police found a 275-plant cannabis farm with an estimated street value of £150,000 in a flat, with a tunnel dug from an empty charity shop next door linking the two premises.
While Mr Campbell is encouraging landlords to carry out regular checks on tenants, he says they are often left to apply for a court order to force entry into properties where locks have been changed by crooks eager to keep prying eyes out.
Mr Campbell says one of his own rented properties, in Dacre Street, South Shields, was used by a tenant to house a cannabis farm - leaving him a hefty repair bill.
Mr Campbell said: “When a cannabis farm is discovered, the landlord is left with a massive trail of destruction.
You are left with a massive trail of destructionCoin Campbell
“In my case, the room had been painted black and there were just wires hanging out from the electric meter.
“You are left with a repair bill that can run into thousands and it can be a long wait to get electricity back in the property.
“Landlords have to give 24 hours’ notice to a tenant to inspect a property but the trouble is when the tenant is determined to keep you out. You can find that doors or locka have been changed and in one case a tenant had blocked the door with scaffolding.”
Mr Campbell says that while he and fellow landlords carry out extensive checks on prospective tenants – they can never guarantee what activities are taking place behind closed, or even locked, doors.
He believes criminal gangs often place a cannabis farmer in place at a property while keeping their own identies under wraps.
He is calling police to take strong action against offenders to help drive drugs enterprises out of the borough.
Northumbria Police declined to comment due to court proceedings being active in relation to the drug farm found in Dean Road, but have previously appealed for residents concerned about drug issues in their neighbourhood to contact them to report any potential crime.