If you have suspicions that your commercial property is being used to deal with or grow illegal drugs, you have a responsibility to act but should proceed with caution.
If a property manager discovers that your commercial property is being used for illegal activities of any kind can be alarming. Not only could it result in damage to your property and a bad reputation, but you could also end up being prosecuted or fined if the situation isn’t handled correctly.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for large warehouses and commercial spaces to be used for such activities. For example, over £16m worth of cocaine was extracted from a warehouse in Blackburn or this convenience store being used as a drug front by packaging drugs in sweet wrapping. Drug use can also escalate quickly, from occasional use to dealing and even to using a property as a meth lab or cannabis farm, which can be an extremely challenging situation to deal with.
Before you can even think about trying to evict your tenant, it is important that you gather evidence and seek legal help.
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The Impact of Drug Use On Your Commercial Property
In many cases, property managers may be unaware that a tenant is engaging in illegal drug use until they attend a periodic inspection or receive complaints from neighbouring properties or other tenants that indicate potential drug use.
Any illegal activity must be reported. Although a landlord could not be held liable for unlawful behaviour they were unaware of, they could potentially be prosecuted under the Misuse of Drugs Act if they knew a tenant was breaking the law and allowed them to continue.
The other consideration is that illegal drug use can be extremely harmful, attracting greater criminal activity to the area, impacting the desirability and rental value of a commercial unit and affecting the landlord’s reputation.
Landlords commonly find that if a tenant is found to be using or dealing drugs, they are also routinely late or behind with rental payments and fail to maintain the property to an acceptable standard.
How to Determine Whether a Tenant is Dealing Drugs
It may be difficult to decide whether to contact the police if you are unsure whether drugs are being used in your property, and it can be helpful to look for some tell-tale signs, such as:
- Suspected drug paraphernalia spotted during property inspections or found littered outside the property.
- Complaints from neighbours about the smell of potential drugs.
- Frequent visitors at unsocial hours, often late at night.
- Erratic or anti-social behaviour, often accompanied by non-payment of rent.
- A reluctance to permit entry to the property for routine inspections or a refusal to enable maintenance works to proceed.
Related reading: If you’re a commercial landlord, clearviewBI can help to consolidate and manages in real-time corporate tenants, analysing and generating enhanced visibility into corporate distress and the potential for rent default. You can read more about clearviewBI here.
Threatening a tenant with eviction or challenging them with an accusation of drug use is highly inadvisable. It could expose you to violence or intimidation and have negative repercussions if your suspicions are incorrect.
Although a Section 8 eviction notice is a possible course of action where illegal drug use has been confirmed, you should ensure you have legal and formal advice or confirmation from the police before you take direct action.
Three Steps to Manage Suspected Drug Use in a Rental Property
As soon as you become aware that your tenant may be dealing or growing drugs in your commercial property, you should begin documenting evidence. Keep detailed notes about any anti-social behaviour, suspicious activity, or complaints from neighbours, as you will require evidence if you need to evict a tenant.
Speak to the Police
Once you have proof or significant evidence that illegal drugs are being grown or supplied from your property, then it’s your responsibility to act on this information by informing the police.
Seek Legal Help
Even with evidence that a tenant has been using a property to deal drugs, evicting them can be a complicated process and must be carried out according to the law. Seek help from a solicitor or a specialist eviction service for help with making a possession order.
UK Laws and Relevant to Drug Use in commercial properties
There are rules and regulations governing drug use on commercial property. Here are some key points to consider:
- Illegal Drugs: The use, possession, or sale of illegal drugs is, of course, strictly prohibited on commercial property in the UK. It is a criminal offense and can result in legal consequences.
- Employment Policies: Employers have the right to establish drug-free workplace policies and enforce them on their commercial premises. These policies typically prohibit drug use, possession, and being under the influence of drugs while on the job.
- Health and Safety Obligations: Commercial property owners and employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment for employees, customers, and visitors. This includes taking reasonable steps to prevent drug use that may pose a risk to safety.
- Drug Testing: In certain industries or job roles where safety is paramount, employers may conduct drug testing as part of their employment procedures. However, drug testing must comply with legal requirements and guidelines set forth by relevant authorities.
- Reasonable Accommodation: Employers have a duty to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, which may include allowing the use of prescribed medication. However, this does not generally extend to illegal drug use.
If you’re a commercial property owner, you should consider consulting legal professionals and relevant authorities to ensure compliance with the applicable laws and regulations.
Anti-Social Behaviours and Tenant Drug Abuse
Another aspect of drug use is that it typically results in anti-social behaviour. Although a landlord does not carry any legal responsibility to ensure tenants behave appropriately, they are obligated to protect the community from nuisance behaviour.
Misuse of illegal drugs and anti-social behaviour are often linked, so property owners should take swift action to ensure their problematic tenants do not negatively impact the area, often due to attracting criminals and organised crime gangs involved in drug distribution.
In some cases, a landlord may first be made aware of alleged drug use by neighbouring units or the occupiers of surrounding commercial units, who have reason to believe the tenant is using illegal drugs and/or is committing anti-social behaviour offences.
The best practice is to take every complaint seriously, document all the details provided, and consult the police if there are any indications of drug use on the property.
Closure Notices for Rented Properties
Both the local police force and council have the authority to issue closure notices, which are valid for 48 hours. This type of notice is most often used where drug-taking or anti-social behaviour persists despite the landlord’s best efforts.
While a notice is in force, nobody can enter the property, and the authorities may decide to apply for a PCO, or Premises Closure Order to stamp out ongoing drug use issues, which can remain in effect for up to three months and prevent you from letting the property to a new tenant.
Therefore, following the steps as directed and working with a qualified and certified eviction team greatly protects your property – and income – from illegal drug users.
At Clearway, we offer professional help with evicting tenants from properties. From obtaining writs of possession to making applications to abridge time, we can offer help and advice on how to proceed.