This excerpt is part of the article “Don’t Let Drugs Cook Your Investment Property” by BreAnn Stephenson of Affinity Loss Prevention Services. It can be found in the December 2017 issue of Think Realty Magazine. The editors of Think Realty hope you find this information useful and hope this will help to educate you, our readers, on how to avoid a situation where your property is being used as a drug lab or a drug house.

What to do if You Think Your Tenant is Involved with Drugs?

If you are suspicious of illegal activity, contact authorities immediately!

If your tenant is on a month-to-month agreement, simply do not renew it. If, however, they are on a term lease, you may either have to start the eviction process or offer Cash for Keys. If you are not familiar with Cash for Keys, it is the practice of paying your tenant an agreed sum to move out in a specified time frame. For example, some investors may offer $300-$500 and require the tenant be completely moved out in one or two weeks. Even if you use this method, still get everything in writing.

You can have the tenant sign a “Relocation Assistance Agreement” that includes a provision stating the house will be turned over in good condition, broom swept clean, and with all appliances and fixtures in place. Most importantly, make sure you are there when the tenant moves out. To eliminate their opportunity to do any damage as they leave, you may want to enlist local law enforcement to escort you and remain until your tenant is finished. After they have moved out, secure the property by changing the locks, and making sure all access points (windows & doors on all levels) are locked and secured. This is also a good time to install a portable alarm system. Lastly, monitor the property after they are gone. Unfortunately, it is very common for tenants to come back and cause significant damage after all their valuables are out.

Physical Signs Your Property Is Being Used As a Drug Lab

Unusual Chemical Smell

Meth production can smell like ammonia or acetone (like cat urine), not a particularly pleasant smell.

Uncommon Items on Site

Large quantities of pseudoephedrine packets, Sudafed packets, cold and flu tablets, strange bottles and jars, rubber tubing, glass flasks, unusual/large number of empty chemical bottles.

Unauthorized Modifications to the Property

This could include windows that are covered up and elaborate security systems. Pipes or hoses may need to be funneled through the roof, and unexplained holes in the ceiling could be a sign of hidden marijuana grow operations.

Irregular Use of the Property

Look for signs the property is being lived in, not just used as a grow station or lab. Kitchens, garages and bathrooms are the most common rooms used by illegal drug lab operators. The yard may also be overgrown or show odd patches of dead grass where toxic byproducts may have been dumped.

Visible Damage

Water damage causing warped walls and floorboards or stained carpets could be more than just a leaky roof. Fading paint can be caused by intense lighting used in the hydroponic method of growing marijuana.

Tenant Behavior

  • Increasingly late rent and utility payments or they start paying for rent only in cash
  • They ignore problems or you
  • They won’t let you or maintenance inside the rental
  • They have a lot of visitors throughout the day who come and go quickly
  • They exhibit illogical behavior

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  • BreAnn Stephenson

    BreAnn Stephenson is assistant vice president of Affinity Loss Prevention Services. Contact her at

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