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Professional & Surveying Services

Commercial Property Services

Insurers are growing increasingly concerned about the rise in illegal cannabis farming across the UK and the threat it presents to residential rental properties.

The latest figures suggest around 20 new cannabis farms are discovered every day by police, and most of them have been found in unassuming residential premises.

Criminals are shifting away from large farms in commercial buildings to small-scale factories across multiple sites in rented residential properties. This allows the criminal to spread the risk of detection and minimise loss of profit, meaning if one farm is discovered there will be others left in operation.

With cannabis rising in value over recent years, a growing number of criminal gangs are moving into this area and seeing the crop as low risk and high return.

More worryingly, new varieties of the crop are being introduced, which only take around nine weeks to mature, rather than the common 12 weeks. This means scheduled quarterly checks by landlords or agents may miss the cultivation process and be left with a property in a state of disrepair.

Converting premises into a cannabis farm can cause substantial damage to a property and landlords need to know what to look out for and the type of tenant to avoid. Insurer Aviva, for example, saw a 30 per cent year-on-year increase in cannabis damage claims last year.

morag keohane 8004 SQU 1

Industry Adopts Independent Regulation.  A rise in buy-to-let and build-to-rent developments over the next few years will see more people becoming leaseholders, and has lead to the industry adopting its own independent regulation scheme.

There are already around two million leasehold flats in England and Wales, and leaseholders collectively pay around £2.5bn a year in service charges for the upkeep of the communal areas of their buildings.

Yet, currently, managing leasehold properties is not subject to any form of regulation or accreditation scheme, meaning many leaseholders experience poor levels of service and extortionate fees with no redress.

While some managing agents do belong to an industry body, there are thousands that don't, and that leaves leaseholders who have a problem with the conduct of their agent with nowhere to go.

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), and a number of its members, have long campaigned for government regulation in a bid to drive up standards. However, the government has so far resisted industry regulation.

Now ARMA and its members, which includes Caxtons, are implementing independent regulation and producing a consumer charter, known as ARMA-Q, which will be launched in the next few months. This will be the first time the industry has codified standards for managing agents.

The new charter is designed to ensure ARMA members provide quality customer service, promoting honesty, fairness, transparency and timeliness as well as stringent standards in property management.

One of the most important developments in protecting the interests of leaseholders will be independent regulation of ARMA members. The regulatory panel, which will not be connected with ARMA or its members, will monitor issues involving corporate conduct, service charges and commissions, vet the member accreditation process and enforce compliance.

More Regulation Needed as Complaints about Rogue Lettings Agents Soar

Complaints about lettings agents have more than doubled over the past five years according to figures released by a property watchdog.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) received 8,334 complaints in 2012, up from 3,739 in 2008 - a 123 per cent increase. In comparison, complaints against estate agents have fallen from 6,067 in 2008 to 4,261.

Complaints about lettings agents now represent TPO's largest workload, around 53 per cent of all enquiries. Alan Stewart director and head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons said: "These figures are very disappointing and it saddens me that landlords and tenants are being ripped off by unscrupulous lettings agents.

"The huge rise in complaints reported to TPO is yet more proof that the lettings industry should be regulated. What is more concerning is that unless some form of regulation is introduced soon, the situation could become worse as the ongoing economic conditions force more people into private renting."

Alan Stewart