A family who moved to South Africa were forced to foot a £20,000 bill to repair their south Croydon home after it was rented out as a cannabis factory.

Andre Baldeo, 37, said he was called on May 16 by police who said they feared it was being used to manufacture illegal drugs.

Police did not find anyone at the property when they raided it on May 19 but discovered about 200 cannabis plants in the house and the mains hacked into.

The house was dangerously unsafe and £20,000 worth of damage had been done.

Mr Baldeo said: "In May 2010 our tenants left and we used a local small letting agency, Capital Estates of Purley, to find and place some new tenants.

"We were told that new tenants had been found, reference checks had been carried out using Maras - a reputable reference checking agency- and the tenants had "passed with flying colours", so we agreed a one year lease.

"Our rent was always paid on time and we had no reason to suspect anything."

However, on May 16, concerned neighbours called the police when they saw two men trying to get into the house through the back garden, the men ran away when they were challenged.

Mr Baldeo said: "After speaking to the neighbours in depth about who was staying in our property and what movements they saw, the police were highly suspicious that our house was being used as a cannabis factory.

"Thirty-six hours later, with my permission and keys from our handymen, the Safer Neighbourhood department gained access to our property and found their suspicions confirmed."