Cuckooing: What is it and What to Look Out For

The recent series of Happy Valley highlighted some of the issues related to cuckooing. This has led to calls for cuckooing to become a criminal offence by amendments to the Modern Slavery Act but what action can be taken right now to tackle the issue?


First things first, what is cuckooing?

Criminal gangs or individuals exploiting vulnerable people by taking over their homes. Victims can be drug users or suffering addiction themselves but may also be older people or those suffering from mental or physical health problems, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

Types of cuckooing

  • Using the property to grow, deal, store or take drugs
  • Using the property for sex work
  • Using the property to store weapons
  • Taking over the property as a place to live, sometimes leaving the victim homeless
  • Taking over the property to financially abuse the tenant

What are the signs to look for?

  • An increase in the number of people entering and leaving the property
  • An increase in the number of cars or bikes visiting the property
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour
  • People coming and going late at night
  • Unusual fob activity
  • Signs of drug use
  • Curtains or blinds closed all of the time
  • External doors being propped open or damages
  • Unknown people pressing buzzers to gain access to the building
  • Disengagement with support services
  • Access issues

These may also be indicators of other support needs.


What can be done?

It is important to increase awareness of cuckooing so that other residents are aware of the signs to look for and incidents can be reported and investigated.  Awareness can be increased by social media campaigns, posters, or at events within communities.

It is important to consider the needs of the tenant and engage with social services, the police, and other support services.  You should try to engage with the tenant to explore whether any support can be offered to prevent the exploitation.

If the tenant is at risk or is unwilling to engage, legal options such as injunctions can be considered.  An injunction can be obtained against the tenant to prevent any anti-social behaviour and prevent visitors to the property.  If the identity of the perpetrator is known, an injunction can be sought to exclude them from the property or area.

For more information or advice on how to tackle cuckooing, please contact Amy Tagoe, Associate Solicitor at MSB on

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