Currently, the United States is experiencing a serious drug epidemic. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to suspect that a tenant is using or dealing drugs in your rental unit.
This kind of activity can disturb other tenants, damage your property’s reputability, and potentially endanger your rental investment. If you think your tenants are doing drugs, here’s how you should handle it.
Know the Signs
If you suspect that a tenant is engaging in illegal drug activity, make sure you know the warning signs.
- Frequent traffic in and out of the unit: If your tenants have a lot of visitors who come at odd hours of the day and only stay for a bit, you may have reason for suspicion. It could just be that your renters are very social, but this can also be a sign of drug dealing at the property.
- High utility bills: When someone is manufacturing drugs or selling them, there may be a spike in utility bills since electricity and water may be used more often. Certain electrical wiring or amenities may be tampered with as well, like smoke detectors, for instance.
- Unusual odors: Producing drugs can cause some pungent odors. If other tenants or neighbors have noticed the scent of chemicals (like ammonia) or smoke (like marijuana), you should investigate.
- Cash payments: Some people prefer paying in cash, but it’s not the norm and and people involved in illegal activities are more likely to do so. Someone engaging in illegal behavior may not want to deposit money in a traceable bank account. Make sure that you find the best way to receive rent, like using an online payment method.
Don’t ignore these signs and act fast. If you don’t, you may be liable for injuries or other forms of harm caused to tenants or neighbors due to illegal activity on the rental property.
Look at Your Lease
Pretty much every thorough lease agreement contains a clause that allows you to evict a tenant for engaging in criminal and/or illicit drug activity. You may even have included a clause that allows you to evict the tenant if their guests are engaging in this behavior. In many states, you don’t have to give your tenant notice or the opportunity to change the behavior if they are indeed breaking the law and seriously violating the lease. The protocol for eviction in this case depends on the state you live in, so make sure to refer to your local laws.
If you want to get your tenant out of the rental, you’re going to need evidence of them engaging in illegal drug activity. If somebody contacts you with a concern about the tenant in question, try to get as much information as possible. Don’t jump to conclusions or take any sides. Stay objective while talking to any witnesses and let them know that they will remain anonymous if you decide to use the information you provided.
You can also ask the witness to write a letter that documents what they observed. This way, you will have documentation to support your claim in the event that you proceed with an eviction, or if other legal issues arise. Other forms of evidence include:
- An arrest or conviction for drug activity.
- Witnesses who can testify as to the tenant’s illegal drug activity.
- Photo evidence of drug paraphernalia in and around the apartment.
- Photo evidence of large amounts of trash and chemical containers, such as those involved in meth production.
- You can obtain photo evidence of the interior of the unit by scheduling an inspection of the unit. You can also take photos of the area around the property, as well as the trash, which may contain evidence of drug use or manufacturing.
While you may not be able to prove drug activity directly, you may be able to prove that the tenant is engaged in nuisance behavior if you can demonstrate a large amount of late-night traffic to and from the residence. Consult a property attorney for help when handling the issue legally. You can also contact local law enforcement to report suspicious activity or ask for a tenant’s criminal record.
Evict the Tenant
If you have evidence to support your claim of drug activity on the property, it might be time to evict. There are different types of eviction notices depending on the circumstances and your local laws, but the process for drug-related evictions is usually faster than the traditional eviction process. Make sure to follow through with the eviction in a professional, legal matter. If you can demonstrate to a judge that a tenant or their guests are engaging in drug dealing on your property, you won’t have a problem getting an eviction order signed. If you just want the tenant to move out, there are other actions you can take.
Prevent Drug Activity
To prevent tenants from engaging in illegal drug activity, you can do the following:
- Screen tenants carefully and conduct a thorough background check.
- Contact prior landlords and other references — they may have been kicked out for illegal activities before.
- Get police to perform regular courtesy checks and patrols on your property.
- Invest in security cameras and place them in convenient areas. You should also set up some good, bright lighting around the property. It’s safe to say that criminals don’t like to engage in crimes in well-lit areas covered by security cameras.