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What if you suspect a tenant is running a drug operation?

What do you do if you suspect that one of your tenants is running a drug operation right out of one of your units?

You certainly can't evict him or her based purely on a hunch. Nor can you go peeking into his or her apartment without a valid reason to be there. Which means that you can't allege that you need to check out the plumbing, for example, unless there's actually an issue with the plumbing.

Even if you can think of a valid reason to go inside the unit, you have to give the tenant reasonable notice -- at least 12 hours, under Florida law -- by which time you can be certain that the signs of any illegal activity will be carefully tucked away.

Instead, your best solution is to document your suspicions carefully. Include any information that has led you to suspect drug activity:

-- People coming and going at all hours of the day or night, generally only for a few minutes at a time.

-- Evidence left for the trash that could indicate the production of drugs, like boxes that held hydroponic equipment that could be used for marijuana growth or a large number of empty chemical product containers that could be used to manufacturer other drugs.

-- Sudden, obvious displays of wealth from a tenant that didn't have that sort of income before, especially if you suddenly start getting your payments in cash.

-- A constant presence at the apartment, meaning that it seems like someone is always there to watch over things, even if your tenant leaves for a short while.

You can also document any other issues, like complaints from the neighbors or the odor of chemicals or drugs, if you smell them.

Then, take your concerns to the police and ask them to investigate. If your tenant is eventually arrested, that's may give you grounds for eviction if you have the appropriate clause in your lease that prohibits illegal activity on the premises.

Keep in mind, however, that eviction is a very technical process, with a specific timetable. If you make a mistake, it can delay your repossession of the property significantly. For that reason, it's wisest to consult with an attorney who can help you through the eviction process.

Source: The Florida Bar, "Rights And Duties Of Tenants And Landlords," accessed March 10, 2017

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