Two estate agents have been jailed for setting up cannabis farms with a street value of around £500,000 in rental properties.
Aidan Lynch, 51, and Jason Smart, 47, of Home to Home estate agents in Forest Hill, London denied the charges against them, but were both found guilty on 9th February, after a three-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
Smart was sentenced to three years in prison, while Lynch was given a sentence of five years in prison.
A third offender, Patrick McArdle, 37, was jailed in February for five-and-a-half years.
The cannabis farm was discovered in a police raid at a former bar below some shops in Crystal Palace. They found four tunnels containing 526 cannabis plants.
Lynch, the manager of Home to Home, and his employee Smart were caught when they entered the property while the police were still there.
They claimed to be the letting agents, but said they did not know who the current tenant was, as they had let the property to a man they met in a pub who had paid £300 in cash.
During the police investigation, a cannabis farm was found at another property, and police discovered at least seven Home to Home properties that had been used as cannabis factories, with the potential for a yearly turnover of £2m.
Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi, the investigating officer from Lewisham, comments: “This was a very long and complex investigation. Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down.”1
While it was the agents in this case that turned rental properties into cannabis farms, it is sometimes the tenant that makes significant changes to their home in order to operate this sort of business. Having your property transformed for this purpose falls under unauthorised alteration, which is covered by our Landlord Property Insurance.
If you are worried about your tenants making these changes to your property, remember to protect it!