Among the new measures revealed in the Queen’s Speech was an organised crime Bill, which will punish landlords who knowingly lease their property to tenants who use the premises for organised criminal activity, such as drug dealing. Turning a blind eye to criminal gangs could earn a landlord up to five years’ imprisonment.
Although the law is primarily aimed at corrupt lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who benefit from working with criminal gangs, but often escape prosecution by pleading ignorance, it was confirmed by a Home Office spokesman that residential landlords would be covered by the law.
The landlord is only in trouble if their property can be proven to be essential for criminal activity. If it is used as a cannabis farm or drug den, the law covers it, but not if the property is simply the home of a gangster.
Having removed “not being aware” as a legitimate defence, landlords will have to make it their business to know what goes on in all of their properties. This could be problematic for those who live a considerable distance away, especially for those abroad. And what if the tenant doesn’t want to be disturbed? Does that constitute suspicious behaviour that needs to be reported? These questions are as yet unanswered.
It will be legislated as soon as there is parliamentary time, so be prepared.
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