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Impact of illegal cannabis farming on rental properties to be examined in student research project

Posted 30 March

"The issue of illegal cannabis farms is widespread across the country, with Aviva reporting a 30 per cent year on year increase for cannabis farm related insurance claims. COVID-19 has furthermore boosted this with the Met police raiding 455 cannabis farms during 2020, double the amount raided in any of the last four years."

A young man – Ben Pester – looks at the camera.

The impact of illegal cannabis farming on rental properties – and its effect upon landlords – is to be examined by a Harper Adams University student.

Final year BSc (Hons) Rural Property Management student, Ben Pester, from Alderley in Cheshire, chose the subject for his Honours Research Project – and will be speaking directly to property owners and managers who have been affected by the issue as part of his investigation.

Ben said: “Many people do grow the plant illegally indoors for personal consumption. However, my dissertation is more focussed on larger scale operations which often are done in rental properties.

“Landlords are left with damaged properties — with criminals knocking down internal walls, bypassing electricity meters and ripping out furnishings — costing in some cases hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damages. These damages, often aren’t covered by standard insurance policies.

“The issue of illegal cannabis farms is widespread across the country, with Aviva reporting a 30 per cent year on year increase for cannabis farm related insurance claims. COVID-19 has furthermore boosted this with the Met police raiding 455 cannabis farms during 2020, double the amount raided in any of the last four years.

“Frequently, illegal cannabis farms can be traced back to organised criminal gangs, which often employ illegal migrants in slave-like conditions to look after crops.

“It is commonly seen that criminals set up the farms, taking the crops and profit, but if they are raided, it is often just the workers inside that are arrested.”

Ben was inspired to investigate the issue both through the amount of press attention it has received, and through the personal experiences of customers he works with while running a residential and commercial grounds maintenance business in Cheshire.

Ben has maintained this growing business alongside his Harper Adams studies through close planning and a regular commute to Shropshire.

He added: “It has definitely been an experience running a business in another county whilst at Harper Adams.

“Lots of planning goes into each week, setting aside time for lectures and private study when this is possible.

“There have been a lot of early mornings and late driving to and from Newport to Cheshire, but it is definitely worth it, especially with the business and finance skills it has taught me over all of the years.”

Once he graduates, Ben intends to continue running his business – as well as taking up a role with Meller Speakman, a Wilmslow-based chartered surveying firm where he spent his industrial placement year.

He added: “On placement, I was given a large amount of responsibility and covered a vast range of work, from valuations to the sale of property, something which has enabled my professional ability to grow massively during the 12 months. I have gained a great deal of experience, professional contacts and a full year’s worth of recorded experience for my RICS assessment of professional competency.

“Meller Speakman were eager for me to re-join their team after graduating following my professional performance over my placement year - and I have subsequently accepted their job offer and am looking forward to being back as part of the company following graduation.”

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