A man who let out his luxury £650,000 countryside home was left in anguish after his tenants secretly transformed it into a cannabis farm.
John Brown’s six-bedroom property in Scotland was torn to bits and a room full of his possessions emptied while tenants carried out an illicit growing operation.
The former builder built his home, named ‘Inchyra,’ in Stirling 20 years ago and decided to rent it out in 2019 while he was abroad on business.
But just months later police carried out a raid on the house and discovered it was being used to cultivate drugs.
Pipes, underfloor heating and oak floors had all been damaged while the house was used as a cannabis farm.
The property’s plasterwork, electric cables, carpets and windows were also wrecked, with the total cost of the damage reaching an estimated £65,000, the Daily Record reports.
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In December 2019, two men were each jailed for three years after admitting a charge of being concerned in the supply of drugs at the house.
Kladji Ibrahimi, 23, pleaded guilty to committing the offence between the dates of April 1 and July 21, 2019, and Edi Vaka, 26, between April 1 and June 1 that year.
Mr Brown took the agents who let out his home to a first-tier housing Tribunal which was also told that a locked room in the house containing personal property, valued at £158,395, had been broken into and cleared out during the tenancy.
The tribunal ordered that he should receive £16,000 in compensation.
Mr Brown, who is director of company Magno-Flo which specialises in the installation of industrial machinery and equipment, told the Observer: “This has been a painful turn of events and one that I do not want anyone else to suffer from.
“I built Inchyra from scratch, and I managed to do all the repairs myself at cost price, but it doesn’t cover the losses. There is also the loss of items of property, some of which had a lot of sentimental value to me.”
In its ruling, the tribunal “had every sympathy for all parties on the fact that [Mr Brown] and his property were victims to serious criminal activity”.
It heard that in Spring 2019 Mr Brown sought the help of letting agent Allan Bate to find a tenant as he was moving to work in Australia. Mr Bate told Mr Brown he was in the process of becoming registered as a letting agency with former colleague Kevin Valentine, but was not yet registered.
The tribunal also heard a tenancy agreement with a Sanjeev Arora was signed in May 2019.
But two months later concerns were raised by Mr Brown and police raided the property.
The tribunal report reads: “Around July 22, 2019 a meeting took place between Mr Brown, Mr Valentine and Mr Bate.
“It was agreed that the concerns for the property remained and that as they were not able to arrange an inspection contact would be made with the police.
“The applicant [Mr Brown] stated that he was concerned that the tenants were operating a cannabis farm in the property.
“He contacted the police that day. On entry the police found that the property had been used to cultivate cannabis and had been converted and significantly damaged as a result.”
At that time, Mr Bate and Mr Valentine were operating as Stirling Property Shop, SPS Property Management Ltd.
That company however has since sold its assets and a Stirling Property Shop spokesperson confirmed that they are now under new management.
According to Companies House Mr Bate and Mr Valentine both became directors of SPS Property Management Ltd on June 3, 2019. Mr Valentine however resigned on August 11, 2020.
The Tribunal decision, dated January 19 this year, states that Mr Bate and Mr Valentine had failed to comply with the Code of Practice for Letting Agents and that (the then Stirling Property Shop), SPS Property Management Limited, from its incorporation on June 3, 2019, had also failed to comply with the Code.
There was however said to be a “deficiency in evidence in terms of the contents of the locked room”.
The Tribunal found there had been no breach of the code in terms of the checks carried out on Mr Arora.
And Mr Brown did not have landlord insurance in place, nor insurance for his own belongings left in the property.
The Tribunal ordered Mr Bate and Mr Valentine to pay Mr Brown £10,000 and SPS Ltd to pay him £6000.
The Tribunal noted in submissions that Mr Bate and Mr Valentine had said Mr Brown’s “self-responsibility was a huge question and so was the decision to have high value items in a locked room with every opportunity to remove them or to have insurance”.
When contacted by the Observer, both Mr Bate and Mr Valentine said they “recognised that mistakes had been made, but lessons had also been learned from the experience.”