Oops! You put drug dealers in your rental property! Now what?

In the summer of 2007, I went against my guts and my renter protocols, putting someone in a property that I should not have.  She seemed decent enough but the clues that something was wrong were:
1)  She had "gangland" tattoos over the top part of her chest.
2)  She paid in cash and never once balked at rent and deposit.
3)  Her "boyfriend", who I barely met, was never around except to sign the lease.
4)  She flirted with me.
A month into the rent, a neighbor to the property called to tell me he thought there was drug dealing going on (Thank God I had a system in place to help me monitor my rentals)  He also said the tenants were aggressive, combative, and argumentative to him.  I told him I'd check into it which I did. 

Less than a month later, he confirmed they were indeed dealing drugs in the rental property which I had already knew. Furthermore, he had it on video.  While talking to him, I heard the woman screaming at the neighbor about minding his business. 

I phoned the tenant, told them the neighbor was right, and to get the hell out of the unit due to the "illegal activity" provision of the lease being broken.  I wound up giving them a portion of their rent back and the deposit just to get them out, but they were gone within a week.

Here is a handy list of things to do in the case you find out your tenants are drug dealing in your property:
various illegal drugs

Do NOT panic! At this point, you're in a tenuous situation. Don't make it worse by doing something hasty that you may later regret like directly confronting the drug dealing tenants. The drug trade is usually rife with violence that spills over into the innocent. Tread with caution.

Also do NOT ignore it. Chances are your neighbors know about it and the authorities have been notified. Depending on how long the problem existed, things could be in motion by the authorities to resolve it.

Act and do it fast! At the very least, send a letter or make a phone call telling the tenants the drug dealing has been identified and must cease! Furthermore, due to the "illegal activity" portion of their lease (you do have a section in your lease detailing any illegal activity in the house will be met with immediate loss of the property?) the tenants are subject to immediate eviction.

If it already hasn't happened, tell the tenants the police have already notified you that they're aware and are soon to act. If even not true, this should get immediate results. In my case, I knew from talking to a police officer liaison to the area that drug dealing had been identified.

I also knew per their protocols, an officer went to the home to tell them they were aware of their activity (they never answered the door I was told by neighbors so didn't get the message)

Protect your assets and file an eviction. I'm no attorney but some municipal forfeiture laws may allow law enforcement to confiscate your property. It seems unlikely but possible. If not confiscation, it's very likely sooner or later you'll suffer a kicked in door frame as cops gain entry to the home, forcing you to repair damages incurred during a raid. Even worse, your local government may declare your property a nuisance, forcing you to cough up all sorts of fines and fees. Don't risk this!

Immediately file an eviction, stating why the tenants need to be removed. Should the government come after you, you can at least hold up your eviction notice to prove you were not taking the problem lightly.

I knew from my problem the cops had the property under surveillance. After they failed to make contact with the residents to cease the drug dealing, their next step was to make a forced entry into the home and arrest people. They were very close to doing this which is why I made a big fuss and show about getting the drug dealers out, even posting a "For Rent" sign in the yard well before the property was ready to rent.

Let the property idle for a few days after the tenants are gone. Word that the drug house is gone may not have spread through the streets yet. Do you really want to be there when someone shows up to make a purchase?

What I learned talking to the cops was someone made a purchase from my rental, went to a main street, got pulled over for some reason, drugs were found, and later he spilled where he purchased them. That incident set everything else in motion. Like the neighbor, the police spied people coming and going from the home as well as the boyfriend leaving the home with packages, coming back empty handed.

Even four days later while I was surveying the condition of the home (which, oddly, was in pretty good shape), I heard a car door slam. Opening the front door, I saw a 20 something man about to come up the walkway. Our eyes met, he saw I was armed, and he left. I'm certain word didn't reach him that drug house was gone for good. I waited another 5 days before I went back to the property.


Toxic Drugs! If toxic drugs were being manufactured in the home, you have a very, very serious situation that will require environmental surveys and professional cleanup costing you thousands and thousands of dollars. If you find a meth lab or similar, leave the premises and contact authorities.
The lessons learned are follow your rental guidelines and follow your gut instincts. Preventing a drug dealing operation in your rental property is easier than cleaning one up. If illegal activity does happen, do not ignore it. Doing so will cost you big in the end.
Note: Please see my disclaimers regarding my opinion. I am not an attorney, nor do I intend intentionally or otherwise, to be dispensing legal advice. If you need an attorney, consult one. I am merely offering my experiences and lessons learned.