If you suspect illegal drug activity in your rental property, don't hesitate. Look for these warning signs and notify law enforcement promptly.
1. Frequent visitors at all hours.
Is your property receiving a steady stream of guests who only stay for a few minutes at a time Ask your tenant why.
2. Unusual odors.
Growing or manufacturing drugs can produce noxious smells. If neighbors or other tenants are complaining about unpleasant odors, check on your property right away.
3. Spikes in utility usage.
Manufacturing drugs can cause an unusual surge in utility bills. If the bills are in the name of your tenant (and you don't have access to them), check the meter for high usage.
4. Unfamiliar residents.
If the property is occupied by someone other than the tenant, there could be something wrong. Keep a record of your tenants’ vehicles and license plate numbers. Check to see who’s really staying at your property.
5. Paying rent in cash.
While not illegal, making rental payments in cash is unusual. Even if there are no other warning signs, you might require your tenants to make payment via check to establish a paper trail. Of course, any of these potential red flags may turn out to have a perfectly reasonable explanation. But if you ever have reason to be suspicious, it's best to check on your property right away.
When to Call the Police
If you believe that your tenants are engaged in criminal activity, you may have a legal obligation to report it. Local law enforcement may also be able to provide you with information about your tenant or recent complaints in the neighborhood. Keep in mind that even if your tenant is arrested, that does not constitute an eviction. You will still have to take your tenant to court and go through the eviction process.
Protect Yourself from Liability
A drug-dealing tenant can cause you no end of headaches. Other tenants, neighbors, or neighborhood residents could sue you on the grounds of your property being a nuisance that poses a threat to public safety. Law enforcement authorities could potentially seek fines against you or even file criminal charges if they believe you have knowingly allowed illegal activity on your rental property.
Find a Lawyer Who Specializes in Property Law
Depending on your local laws, the eviction process for drug activity may be different than a typical eviction. If you’re unsure about your rights or the next steps, consult an attorney who has experience in landlord-tenant disputes and evictions. The last thing you want to do is lose an eviction case because of improper procedures.
Stop Drug Activity Before It Happens
The best way to prevent illegal drug activity on your property is to thoroughly screen every tenant before signing a lease. Be sure to check the language of your lease. Ensure that it specifically prohibits any conduct that is unlawful under state or federal law, including the use, manufacture, distribution or selling of any controlled substances.
Then if the worst happens and you must evict a tenant for drug activity, you’ll be in a stronger position to win your case.