What can landlords do if they discover their property is being used for growing or supplying illegal drugs? Will tenants be automatically be evicted for drugs convictions? Surely if the tenant is convicted a landlord can expect to receive an order from the court allowing them to evict?
However, the case of Glasgow Housing Association v Stuart shows that landlords cannot merely rely on a drugs conviction in order to evict.
If a conviction isn't enough, then what is? Recent cases we have been involved in have highlighted that there are a range of factors that a court will consider. This blog will examine these factors against the Stuart case and illustrate considerations landlords should take into account when thinking about court action.
The Scale and Sophistication of Operations
In Stuart the tenant was convicted of producing an illegal drug (cannabis) however the operation was clearly small-scale and amateurish. Five cannabis plants were grown in a cupboard, with a single lightbulb and some reflective sheeting providing the light the plants needed to grow.
The unsophisticated nature of the cultivation fed into the court's decision that it was not reasonable to evict this particular tenant.
Landlords should consider the quantity of illegal drugs likely to be being produced at the property. Could the amount indicate drug dealing? In cases of cannabis cultivation how advanced is the method used for growing cannabis? If the amount of drugs indicate dealing then it may be that the court is more likely to decide that eviction is reasonable.
Why has the landlord chosen to go for eviction?
In Stuart, a witness for the landlord explained that the landlord had a "zero tolerance policy" towards drug offences meaning the landlord had little choice but to pursue eviction if it was to comply with said policy.
The court was very clear that, whilst such a policy may be socially desirable, it cannot have a "zero tolerance policy" in these cases. The court must always consider reasonableness and look at each case individually.
It seems that courts expect landlords to apply a level of discretion when dealing with drug offences when considering eviction. This could involve: carrying out a risk assessment on the chance of re-offending by the tenant; consulting with the tenant or having a period they would monitor the property for any more illegal or anti-social conduct.
In addition to this, although the landlord stated they had a zero tolerance approach towards drugs, there was no accessible published policy outlining this. Landlords should have a clear and easily accessible policy that lays out their approach to drug offences.
Whilst Stuart is an exceptional case, given the low level of drugs involved and amateurish nature of the production, it still highlights that when dealing with drug offences, a criminal conviction is not enough to secure a court order for eviction.
If you want more information on whether tenants will be evicted for drugs convictions please contact our team.