UK: Landlords warned as Aviva reports 30% increase in cannabis claims

14 Mar 2011

Residential cannabis farming continues to boom and Aviva is warning landlords to be extra vigilant as it reports a 30% year-on-year increase in claims - the highest level since it started recording the data in 20071.

Nationally there were 643,510 cannabis plants seized in 2008/9 and this increased by 18% to 758,700 in 2009/102. 83% of seizures by the police last year were for 50 plants or fewer.

Matthew Gordon, underwriting manager - property owners - at Aviva said: “Despite the upgrade of cannabis to a class B drug two years ago the industry continues to grow. We settled 92 cannabis farming claims last year, which is the highest number Aviva has ever recorded.       

“Almost all of the properties were residential and we often find that it is part of a larger operation or that the policyholder has had a couple of properties affected. Cannabis farming comes with serious risks for landlords; properties can be completely ruined inside to make space for plants, water damage can occur and fire poses a risk due to interference with electrics or strong lighting left on for a long time.

“Property owners must be vigilant and there are some simple steps that can be taken. We would advise thorough checks on tenants and regular visits to properties - both internal and external inspections. Permanently closed curtains, blacked out windows and strong smells are all signs that there may be a cannabis factory on your premises.”

Cannabis farming warning signs:

  • Walls, ceilings and doors can be lined with plastic or polythene as plants are often grown in individual pots throughout the property 
  • Windows will normally have blinds or curtains closed to obscure any activity. 
  • Rather than having garden hoses plugged into a sink or basin, the plants are irrigated through pump spray guns, such as those used in a domestic garden.
  • High-powered lighting is installed and the electricity has probably been tampered with to bypass the meter.
  • A considerable amount of condensation is produced
  • A pungent smell, which may be noticed through the walls of adjoining properties, but ducting and extractor fans are often installed and fed through the chimney or flue to prevent this.

Aviva is working with customers and brokers to raise awareness of the issues of tenants using domestic dwellings as cannabis farms, ensuring landlords have the right level of cover in place, rather than standard home insurance.

As part of its insurance package for commercial property owners, Aviva automatically covers damage caused by cannabis farming as long as a number of procedures are carried out in respect of residential properties. These include obtaining written employers references and verified records of a bank account for new tenants as well as a log of property inspections. Property owners should speak to their insurance provider or broker to understand the full conditions required.

Gordon continued: “It’s important that property owners have adequate insurance and that they take ‘reasonable precautions’ to prevent any damage occurring. Employing a letting agent to manage the tenant-vetting process and provide an inspection service on the landlord’s behalf is a good option as insurers could refuse a claim if a landlord has been found to neglect their responsibilities.”

-ends-

If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Rebecca Holmes : Aviva Press Office : 01603 685177 : 07800 690731 : rebecca.l.holmes@aviva.co.uk

Patrick Chester : Staniforth : 0161 919 8011 : patrick.chester@staniforth.co.uk

1 Aviva claims data shows that in 2009 there were 71 cannabis claims and in 2010 this increased by 30% to 92 claims. Aviva started recording cannabis claims in 2007, at this time there were 77 claims.

2 Home Office Statistical Bulletin of seizures of drugs in England and Wales 2009/2020 http://homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/research-statistics/

Notes to editors:

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in ten cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.  In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at www.aviva.com/cr

Aviva’s global Street to School programme is working in partnership with Railway Children in the UK to get children living on the streets back into education and everyday life. Find out more at www.aviva.co.uk/street-to-school.

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009

**Source: ABI data released August 2010