Police forces across England and Wales seized 318,988 cannabis plants between April 2016 and March 2017, averaging more than 900 plants a day, reveals new analysis1 from landlord insurance provider Direct Line for Business. The research reveals that the overall number of cannabis plants seized fell by 19 per cent over 12 months, down from 393,702 in 2016.

Landlords should be especially concerned as the proportion of rental properties being investigated for cannabis cultivation is on the increase. Of the investigations into cannabis cultivation in the period 2016-172,two fifths (41 per cent) involved rental properties.

West Midlands Police remains the constabulary with the highest overall number of plant seizures, with 34,604 plants confiscated in 2017. This was, however, a four per cent reduction on the number of seizures by the force compared to the previous year.

Sussex Police reported over double the number of confiscations in just 12 months. From April 2015 to March 2016, the force reported 12,326 seizures but in 2016/2017 this increased to 26,019. Merseyside Police ranked third, with 25,608 plant seizures, a five per cent increase on the previous year.

On a regional basis, the North West had the highest number of cannabis plant seizures, at 55,166 across the area. This was followed by the West Midlands (48,783) and East Midlands (43,090). While the North West saw a reduction in the number of plant seizures compared to the previous year, both the West and East Midlands reported an increase (6.6% and 28.3% respectively).

There was a massive fall in the number of seizures in London in 2017, which ranked second lowest, with the number of cannabis plants confiscated by police falling by 39 per cent in 12 months to 19,397.  The South West had the lowest number of seizures of any region in 2016/17 at 16,823, although this had risen by nearly nine per cent compared to the previous year.

Table one: Regional analysis of cannabis plant seizures3

Region Cannabis plant seizures, 2017 Percentage change,

2016 – 2017

North West 55,166 -13.6%
West Midlands 48,873  6.6%
East Midlands 43,090  28.3%
South East 36,422 -23.8%
North East 26,992  10.2%
Yorkshire and the Humber 26,672 -28.2%
East of England 25,161 -65.3%
Wales 19,843 -4.3%
London 19,397 -39.4%
South West 16,823  8.7%
Total England and Wales 318,988 -19%

Source: Direct Line for Business, 2018

Matt Boatwright, Head of Direct Line for Business, said: “Cannabis cultivation remains prolific across the country and is a particular concern for landlords whose properties are being used for illegal activity. The last thing a landlord wants is to find out a tenant has been using their property to grow drugs as not only will they face a police investigation, but there could also be significant damage to the property. It can cost thousands to repair the damage caused by cannabis growers as buildings are often riddled with damp and require extensive repairs.”

Alongside seizures of cannabis plants, police forces also reported on cases of illegal abstraction, or theft of electricity for use in growing drugs. Since the start of 20164 there have been 4,225 investigations by police into the illegal abstraction of electricity across England and Wales, with 31 per cent of cases relating to the cultivation of illegal drugs. There were 1,292 cases reported of people using electricity to cultivate illegal drugs, the equivalent of 10 each week.

The police force with the highest number of investigations into energy abstraction for drug cultivation since 2016 is Greater Manchester, which reported 213 cases, although this is just one more case than West Yorkshire Police (212). Merseyside completes the top three, reporting 174 cases of energy theft for the production of illegal drugs.

On a regional level, the North West accounted for 36 per cent of all of England and Wales’ drug related electrical theft investigations, with 462, the equivalent of four per week. This was followed by Yorkshire, which had 242 investigations, accounting for 19 per cent of all cases across England and Wales, and the West Midlands (15 per cent).

Table two: Police forces with highest number of investigations into energy abstraction for illegal drugs

Police force Number of cases 2016-2018 Percentage of cases related to drugs 2016-2018
Greater Manchester Police 213 32%
West Yorkshire Police 212 37%
Merseyside Police 174 41%
West Midlands Police 89 48%
Northumbria Police 80 30%
Lancashire Constabulary 75 20%
Staffordshire Police 69 48%
South Wales Police 57 47%
Nottinghamshire Police 40 32%
Durham Constabulary 33 29%
Total England and Wales 1,292 31%

Source: Direct Line for Business 2018

Since 2015*, Direct Line for Business estimates that almost £8.5 million worth of insurance claims have been made for malicious damage relating to cannabis cultivation, with the volume of cannabis-related landlord insurance claims nearly doubling between 2015 and 2017. On average, claims for malicious damage cost 40 per cent more than the standard landlord insurance claim.

Matt Boatwright continued: “Repairing your property if it has been used as a cannabis farm will be a costly and disruptive process. It is essential to conduct proper background checks on tenants, regularly inspect the property inside and out and watch out for suspicious activity such as the tenant asking to pay in cash for months in advance. Our Malicious Damage by tenants cover5 is an optional extra for our Business Landlord Insurance policy. It covers landlords for damage resulting from tenants setting up a cannabis farms that could cause severe structural damage.”

Signs your rental property may be being used to cultivate cannabis

  • The smell – cannabis has a distinctive smell that a landlord is likely to question if they enter a property
  • Noise levels – growers are likely to install extraction fans for ventilation and you may hear this when outside or inspecting a property
  • Cabling – there may be cabling laid outside the property to illegally extract energy from street lights, external supplies or a neighbouring property
  • Black outs – windows may be obscured to prevent people seeing in
  • Barriers – there may be bars installed to doors or windows
  • Heat – watch out for high levels of heat and condensation