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Criminal estate agents ‘weeded out’ by police

Two London-based estate agents have been sentenced for their part in a £2m-a-year operation which used empty rented homes as cannabis farms, without the knowledge of their owners.

House to rent signIt’s not the first thing to occur to the average UK landlord when hiring an estate agent to manage the rental: considering the likelihood of their home being used as a marijuana farm. In the capital, however, a pair of agents have recently been arrested for doing exactly that.

Aidan Lynch, the boss of Home to Home estate agents in Forest Hill, was caught by officers along with employee Jason Smart in February 2013, having arrived at one of the farms only to find the house being raided by police. Upon further investigation, it was found that seven properties entrusted by owners to the businessmen had been converted into grow-houses – each homing over 500 cannabis plants and earning the agents a whopping £2m a year.

The owners themselves were completely unaware of the situation, believing that their homes were being rented out – and as their rent payments were always on time, had no reason to believe otherwise.

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The farms were set up with the help of friend Patrick McArdle, 37, using stolen electricity and high-tech hydroponic systems allowing huge yields of the class-B drug to be harvested every few months. When caught at the aforementioned property, the men claimed to have rented the house to a man they had met in a pub for cash – but officers began to get suspicious when they were unable to produce any paperwork or identification for the mystery man in question.

“This was a very long and complex investigation,” said Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi. “Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down.”

Upon sentencing in early April, the men were collectively sentenced to almost 15 years for the illegal operation. The case has not helped the stereotype of estate agents as untrustworthy businessmen; and with the property market facing a slowdown, the convictions have come at a bad time for the industry.

Luckily, there are plenty of options for property owners which don’t involve illegal activities – including selling homes via property buying companies, which are able to avoid the middleman by dealing directly with the seller. This allows for an honest and efficient fast home sale in exchange for cash, no matter the condition or location of the property.

Want peace of mind in your property dealings? Why not ask National Homebuyers for advice, as we buy any house. Call 08000 443 911 or request a call back to find out how much you could get for your property.

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