News & Articles

Cannabis house: Drug-dealing tenants trash investment property; owner fears bankruptcy

Written by Mark Doman | Tuesday 18th August 2015 | Source: ABC

Trent Lister, 29, bought his investment property in Norlane, Geelong with his partner and his mother, but what started as a long-term life plan has descended into a nightmare.

Earlier this month, during a routine inspection of the property, Mr Lister arrived to find his property had been turned into a cannabis crop house by new tenants who had only been in the property for a few months.

The home was left trashed, the electricity had been rewired, holes cut in floors and the roof, and cupboards removed.

The bath was being used to send water to different parts of the house and the occupants had even turned the doors around to make more space in the bedrooms.

The damage bill is estimated in the thousands and Mr Lister said he was facing bankruptcy after insurance complications.

His mother, who is a foster carer looking after four children, is now also in financial strife.

"When that door opened, my heart just sank," he said.

"You wouldn't believe it unless you saw it. It's amazing how sophisticated these people are at what they do because they're probably going to get away with it."

Those responsible vanished, and while Mr Lister is hopeful they will be caught, he is not holding his breath.

"[Police] don't think they'll catch them," he said.

Officers took DNA from the house and are running checks to see if they have any matches in the system.

Mr Lister rented the property out privately, but said he was careful to do all the checks a real estate agent would do.

He got drivers licences, previous rental history and he said the tenants seemed like genuinely nice people.

"They were the friendliest guys, they were really well dressed," he said.

Police later told him that was normal, because the criminals usually knew exactly the right things to say.

The licences and background information he had received also turned out to be fake.

Victoria Police sergeant Sharon Darcy said Mr Lister's experience was not uncommon.

She said rental properties were being targeted for the specific purpose of setting up cannabis crop houses.

"Anecdotally we see a large number of the search warrants executed in relation to cannabis crop houses are on residential rental properties," she said.

Sergeant Darcy said landlords and real estate agents needed to remain vigilant about the risk.

"Private landlords should consider utilising the services of a professional property manager," she said.

"However, if they do decide to rent a property privately, they should ensure references are provided and the credentials of both the applicant and the referees are checked."


'Supermum' caught up in drug house nightmare

Mr Lister changed his insurance policy shortly before the crop house was discovered.

He said his insurance company had told him he was not covered because the damage was caused before he updated the policy.

"It's heartbreaking, we bought this property as a long-term investment and now ... we'll probably have to declare bankruptcy," he said.

Mr Lister said he got his mother involved in the investment property so she would have something to look forward to in the future. Now, he said, he felt responsible for what had happened to her.

"She's got four young foster kids that she's taken on permanently, she's always been a been a single mum she raised me and my siblings by herself. She's a supermum," he said.

"It was just one thing I thought I could give back to her and now I feel responsible and it's devastating."

Safety advice for landlords:

  • Only certified copies or original documents should be accepted (copy them yourself if original)
  • Double check the documents – does the licence look or feel like your own?
  • Maintain regular contact with the tenant
  • Conduct regular inspections (don't do this alone)
  • Conduct internet searches on the applicant (Google, Facebook etc.)
  • Contact local police if something doesn't appear legitimate


  Self-managed landlords targeted by drug rings

Written by Stefanie Garber | Wednesday 16th July 2014 | Source: Residential Property Manager

Gangs using rentals to manufacture drugs are more likely to seek out landlords who manage their own property, an expert has warned.

Carolyn Parrella from Terri Scheer Insurance said it was not uncommon for drug syndicates to lease a property with the intention of manufacturing methamphetamines or growing marijuana.

“We deal with claims on a national basis. At any given point, we're dealing with a couple in each state,” she said.

She warned these activities, aside from being illegal, could also cause severe damage to the investor’s asset.

“There might be damage to the house because they've modified the electricity or water supply, but the property also needs to be tested for safety because the chemicals can seep into paintwork and carpets. It's actually quite toxic,” she said.

In her experience, self-managed landlords are particularly at risk.

“We've tended to find that tenants will target self-managed landlords in those situations because they might be less likely to do more regular inspections of the property,” she said.

“It's less likely this will happen if you have a good property manager.”

Frequently, she said, drug syndicates would abscond from the property with no warning.

“One of the issues with drug labs is often they rent the property for a period of time, do the work they need to do and then abandon the property. There will be no trace left of what they've done but there is a funny smell that hangs around,” she said.


 $250 fine for tenant who caused $6,000 damage

Written by Steven Cross | Friday 24th January 2014 | Source: Residential Property Manager

A retired self-managing landlord has endured a two-year ordeal for justice after his tenants destroyed his investment property – and were fined just $250.

After falling behind on rent and refusing entry for inspection, the unnamed landlord claimed his patience had worn thin.

“I needed to fit an RCD as per legislation, and when I requested a time for the electrician to come around they texted me claiming that if anyone went near the property they would call the police and have me jailed,” he told Residential Property Manager.

However, after serving the eviction notice the landlord said the tenants still refused to leave.

“I had to go through hearings and proceedings, and when I eventually got round to doing the final inspection, the place was an absolute shambles,” he said.

According to the commissioner for consumer protection Anne Driscoll, tenants have to keep a rental home tidy and clean and hand it back in a similar condition to when the rental agreement began.

“In this case, the property was left in a dirty and unsatisfactory condition – the carpets were ruined with pet faeces and urine,” Ms Driscoll said.

“The repairs cost nearly $6,000 and the bond only covered about $1,600, leaving the owners about $4,300 out of pocket. They were unable to contact Ms Hutchins to seek redress because she had failed to leave her former landlord a forwarding address, which exiting tenants are required to do under the Residential Tenancies Act.”

After the Department of Commerce tracked down the sibling tenants, the landlord claims things moved swiftly.

“I take my hat off to them, they did a great job of tracking them down and bringing them before the court,” he said.

However, after pleading guilty, the tenants were fined just $250 and ordered to pay costs of $702.63.


 $250 fine for tenant who caused $6,000 damage

Written by Stacey Mosely | Thursday 9th May 2013 | Source: Residential Property Manager

A 'hands on' tenant has cut a hole in the floor of his rented apartment to expand the property into two vacant neighbouring units, according to the shocked property manager.

The St Kilda tenant has given a new meaning to DIY when he decided to expand his property on level two into the level one unit below and then across to unit four.

According to Tara Hore, department manager of property management at Biggin&Scott Melbourne, the tenant had been a trouble-free client for over five years. That was until an open inspection of one of the neighbouring units on Saturday.

"We've never had any trouble with him before," she told Residential Property Manager yesterday.

According to Ms Hore, the tenant cut a 1-metre by 2-metre hole in the concrete floor of his apartment in order to gain access to the unit below. There, he demolished the kitchen to make way for a staircase to connect the apartments. But he didn't stop there: the tenant then knocked a hole through the double brick wall to unit four next door.

"When we entered unit four and saw the hole, we instantly contacted the landlord. He knew nothing about any renovations so I knew obviously something was very wrong," she explained.

"As soon as I accessed unit two, I contacted the police.

"Apparently the tenant had told his neighbours that he owned the units and was doing renovations, so they thought nothing of it when they heard machinery."

The 'renovations' have been going on for at least the last two months, said Ms Hore.

"Unit one downstairs has been vacant for the last six months as the owner is going through the process of getting it commercially leased so no-one has been in there since March of this year," she said.

"We've just currently started open for inspections on apartment four, so we've been in and out of there. The last hole would only be between five and seven days' old."

Luckily the landlord had insurance on the property.

"Yes, the landlord is covered," Ms Hore confirmed, "and I'd just like to say I have been incredibly lucky to have such a great landlord through what has been an absolutely bizarre series of events. We have been in hysterics together, it is just so unbelievable.

"It also helps that the landlord was not emotionally connected to the property."

According to Ms Hore, no charges have been laid yet as police are still conducting investigations. The landlord is also going through the process of evicting the tenant.

It is unknown if the tenant has any building experience; however, he was sighted by neighbours wearing safety goggles and a high visibility vest.

"At least we know he complied with OH&S," Ms Hore laughed.


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