How To Deter Illegal Activity On Your Property

Deter Illegal Activity on Your Property

As a property manager, you likely are aware that you can be held responsible for illegal activity that occurs on-site. Of course, when multiple people inhabit the property and with visitors coming and going constantly, recognizing and deterring illegal activity on the property is no easy feat.

Requesting credit and background checks on potential tenants is always a good idea when trying to weed out suspicious or troublemaking candidates. However, there are additional steps you can take to monitor illegal activity that may be going on in plain sight. Here, we list the most common types of illegal activities that take place on multifamily residential properties and how you can sniff them out. Finally, we detail the steps you can take once you discover the illegal activity while reducing the chance of harm to you and other tenants. 

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Common types of illegal activities to look out for: 

Drugs (buying and selling)

Although marijuana use has become legal in many states, it’s certainly not legal everywhere. Become aware of any tenants who might be growing the drug on your property. It may do damage to your property’s reputation — and yours. Be sure to state in your lease that the growing, buying and selling of illegal drugs is grounds for immediate eviction. 

Subletting (when not permitted on the lease)

If you specify on your lease that subletting is not permitted, that won’t stop some tenants who may try to get away with it anyway. In fact, there are endless stories of tenants who rent their spaces as Airbnb properties. If you’re okay with this, no problem. However, if this is going on without your consent, it is definitely a cause for alarm.


Some tenants deal in fraud — they are not who they say they are, for reasons known only to them. This could lead to trouble, including identity theft or skipping out on you without warning. Be sure to do a very thorough background check on every potential tenant. 


Accusing someone of being a sex worker is often difficult. The best solution may be to discourage customers. Strategically placed video cameras in the hallways, stairs, and entrances near the suspect’s space could discourage customers, as well as a prominently posted sign that reads, “This property is under surveillance.” If you have lobby security, a photo ID should be required of all visitors.

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Signs of illegal activity

Increased criminal reports

If you’re suddenly dealing with more visits by the police — or notice that there is more police activity in your property’s immediate area or neighborhood — that’s a pretty clear sign there may be an issue. 

Overly bright lights on the property

In order to grow marijuana indoors, growers need bright lights to help the plants’ growth. If you’re noticing abnormally bright lights coming from your tenants’ spaces — especially if the light seems similar to natural sunlight — you may have illegal drug growers on your property. 

More traffic than usual

If your tenant seems to be unusually popular, with an excessive amount of visitors, you may have a drug dealer or some other sort of illegal activity taking place onsite. Pay attention to an excessive amount of both foot and vehicle traffic.

Strong, unusual smells

A consistent smell that you don’t immediately recognize (or that you do recognize ????) could be a sign of illegal drug use or manufacturing. 

Considering hiring a security company to monitor your property? Read more about how to reach a decision in our blog post here.

What you can do once you’re aware of illegal activities on your property

Get the police involved

This is non-negotiable for every property manager. Don’t take the law into your own hands. Never confront the tenant personally, no matter how sure you are of illegal activity. You never want to endanger your own life or the lives of your staff or other tenants. Allow the cops to handle it. 

Conduct periodic inspections

However, remember to follow the law, even if your tenant does not. Unannounced inspections are largely prohibited by law in the United States. The best you can do is serve your tenants a Notice of Entry, and follow the regulations of your state’s tenancy law. 

Begin the eviction process

Once you have proof of your tenant’s illegal activities (usually via a police report), you can begin the legal process of eviction. The proceedings should begin immediately, to protect everyone on the property. Illegal activity on the property may allow you to consider expedited eviction, which forces the tenant to leave earlier and faster (check your local laws on this).

 Install an emergency communications system on your property

Providing emergency help phones can help deter criminal activity by creating a safety-conscious atmosphere and by providing your tenants access to help in the event that they run into illegal or unsafe activity on your property.

One way to help connect you and your tenants to emergency help instantly is with a Kings III emergency telephone. Place them strategically throughout your property — elevators, pools, hallways, entrances, parking lots, common areas, and stairwells. Its capability to get help to you 24/7/365 could help avert trouble, crime, accidents, and even death.

Our trained staff stays on the line with you until help arrives; they already know your location, which saves you time and eliminates miscommunication, especially in a heated moment.

Kings III operators are trained in the same manner as those in 911 centers, but they are also able to provide pre-medical instructions until help arrives if needed. In the heat of the moment, people tend to speak in their native language, which– believe it or not, isn’t always English. Our staff can provide emergency response in up to 175 languages, which can also make a huge difference.

Find out how Kings III can help keep you safe and get you help if you need to report an accident, suspicious activity, or a crime. Contact us here.

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