The Home Office launches campaign to help letting agents avoid letting their property to criminal ‘County Lines’ gangs
Urban drug dealing gangs are moving into rural towns and coastal communities, where they rent properties and establish a base. The National Crime Agency’s County Lines report shows that these gangs are now even moving into towns in affluent areas to do this.
These gangs use a drug dealing model, known as ‘County Lines’. Children and teenagers – some as young as 12 – are exploited by these gangs to carry drugs from urban areas to rural towns.
To help estate and letting agents avoid letting their properties to these criminal gangs, the Home Office, UKALA, NLA and CrimeStoppers are working together to increase awareness of the signs to spot criminal tenants, and to encourage staff to report concerns to CrimeStoppers.
Possible warning signs to look out for are:
- The prospective tenant offers to pay rent for a long period (e.g. 6 months) upfront in cash
- The prospective tenant is smartly dressed and appears affluent, but wants to rent an inexpensive property
- The prospective tenant is unable to provide landlord or employment references
- The tenant prefers to pay rent in cash, and is unable to provide a good justification
- The tenant does not want to be disturbed, and tries to prevent you from inspecting your property when given reasonable notice.
County Lines gangs often use other people to procure accommodation as a means of distancing themselves from the criminality, meaning estate/letting agents may not have a contract with the actual criminal.
To minimise the risk of your property being used by a criminal gang:
- Ask the prospective tenant appropriate questions about their reason for moving, try to judge if they seem genuine.
- Visit your property within a few weeks of the start of the tenancy to confirm you have rented it to the tenants you think you have – but always remember you must observe your tenants’ right to ‘quiet enjoyment’.
- Once the tenant is in situ, arrange regular inspections (quarterly or six-monthly) to ensure the property is being used according to the agreement and to check on the condition of the property. If the tenant seems overly reluctant to allow you to visit, be wary. If you have doubts it can be helpful to ask for feedback from legitimate contractors, for instance those carrying out gas and electricity safety inspections, as a way to assess what’s going on.
The Home Office has produced a poster for landlords and agents outlining the key signs to look out for. The poster can be downloaded here.
Estate and letting agents who have concerns that a prospective tenant might be involved in County Lines activity should report it to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111, or use the online form https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously.