Mullingar and Athlone District Court judge has advised landlords to take particular care if renting their premises to members of certain overseas communities.
Judge Seamus Hughes made what he called “a general observation” at Mullingar District Court last week, saying “Let the word go out” to landlords that it is not enough to double or triple check potential non-national tenants.
Landlords need to make a dozen checks on Chinese nationals who seek to rent their properties, he said.
He said they may find substantial damage, to the value of up to €30,000 to their properties if they are subsequently used for the growing of cannabis.
He said gardaí have “their finger on the pulse” when it comes to discovering grow-houses, but in the meantime, landlords must be “more circumspect”.
He advised against the short-term vision of “not thinking past next month’s rent”.
He made the comments arising out of evidence given by prosecuting gardaí who discovered cannabis grow-houses in Mullingar and Athlone last week.
However he said his comments were general observations and not related to either of the two Chinese men before him who, he said, are innocent before the law.
Garda Aidan Lyons described how a house at 14 Mayfield Grove, Athlone had suffered “considerable structural damage” estimated at up to €20,000 as it was converted to a grow-house.
Gardaí discovered 312 cannabis plants there on Wednesday last week, with an estimated value of €125,000 and a 33-year-old Chinese national Jian Ping He, with an address at 14 Mayfield Grove, Athlone has been charged with cannabis cultivation there.
Garda Lyons said Jian Ping He came to Ireland 10 weeks ago, and had been “placed” in the Athlone house by another man he had failed to identify.
He said gardaí understand the house was being rented by two members of the Chinese community who may have used false passports.
That house, and two houses in Mullingar suffered similar damage, and in all three cases, electricity meters had been bypassed and a direct mains connection was made.
Garda Lyons said he did not believe the Athlone and Mullingar cases were related.
Jian and another man, 28-year-old Zhou Li of 22 Ardilaun Green, Mullingar, who is charged with cultivating €220,000 cannabis at Ardleigh Park, Mullingar earlier in the week, were both remanded in custody to appear at Cloverhill District Court in the coming weeks.
Detective Garda David Mead said Zhou Li, who arrived in Ireland in 2009 had been at his Mullingar address for two weeks and was due to leave it in a fortnight.
Judge Hughes urged care about the “growing problem” of cannabis cultivation, which sees Irish residences being used for “providing the home and possibly the international market with home-grown cannabis”.