LANDLORDS and property managers face prosecution if they fail to report signs of drug production in rented accommodation, Hampshire police have warned.

The force has issued advice and guidance to property owners across the county who rent out private accommodation.

Following the increasing number of rented properties being used for the production of illegal drugs, the force has produced a landlord's booklet, explaining that property managers have a duty to report any suspicious drug activity to police, or face the prospect of prosecution themselves. The brochure entitled Don't, Turn a Blind Eye - A landlord's guide to keeping illegal drugs out of rented property - has already been e-mailed to letting agents and housing associations.

It highlights the signs to look for if there is suspicion that a cannabis factory or chemical drugs laboratory has been established at a property.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, a landlord or property manager can receive a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or a fine, if they turn a blind eye and allow the production of controlled drugs to take place in rented accommodation. Under the legislation, there is also the potential for premises to be seized or forfeited.

In the last 12 months, 87 cannabis factories have been discovered in properties across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, almost all having been established in rented accommodation.

Hampshire Constabulary's drugs intelligence manager, DS Andy Waite, said he was becoming increasingly concerned by the growth of illicit drug production in rented premises.

"Not only is drug manufacture incredibly dangerous and hazardous to whole communities, but those who own the premises involved leave themselves open to possible prosecution and imprisonment, forfeiture of the premises, or at the very least, huge bills for clean-up operations," he said.

"Owners and agents need to be sure that they are taking proper steps to ensure that they know who they are renting property to, and that they are not using the premises for illegal purposes. Simply accepting rent and turning a blind eye to what a premises is used for is a very dangerous game."

The force is urging landlords to do their bit by reporting suspicious activity, and provide information that can help target the manufacture and supply of drugs.