IT’S ON THE HOUSE
Insights and advice for property investors & home owners.
Dealing with meth-contaminated properties
Methamphetamine (P) contamination is a growing concern for owners and property investors nationwide, with some being forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on cleaning up their properties. The fact that police recently seized the largest ever methamphetamine haul in New Zealand illustrates that this is too big an issue to ignore. So what should you be looking out for – and what are the implications of meth contamination?
If you suspect that your property is being used as a meth lab, or if you want to know what to keep an eye out for, some of the giveaways include:
Be aware, though, that the signs aren’t always obvious. “A bigger issue for us,” says Kevin Edmunds, Property Manager at Quinovic Thorndon, “is people smoking P, rather than manufacturing it, as this also causes contamination. You may not see any signs – it’s odourless – so it’s almost impossible to pick up.”
Edmunds also mentions ‘shake’n’bake’ manufacturing, which doesn’t require conventional lab equipment so the production signs are harder to detect. “That makes it difficult for us as property managers, which is why we think a testing regime between tenants is the best solution,” says Edmunds.
The effects of meth contamination can be devastating. As well as spending thousands of dollars to clean up properties, some landlords have been ordered to reimburse tenants who they unknowingly rented a meth-contaminated property to.
The meth testing industry is currently unregulated, with both owners and tenants at risk of exploitation.
Compounding the issue is the confusion around what level of contamination is safe. According to Ministry of Health guidelines, the baseline for contamination is 0.5 micrograms of methamphetamine or iodine residue per 100 centimetres squared. But these guidelines were created specifically for meth labs, not for contamination caused by the smoking of P.
“It’s made things awfully difficult for us,” Edmunds says, “because the Tenancy Tribunal is using that 0.5 reading, in the absence of anything else, to decide whether a property is uninhabitable or habitable.”
Insurance is another problem, with some policies now including conditions around unlawful illegal substances. “So the financial impact on a P lab situation or a house heavily contaminated by P smoking may not be covered by the insurance company,” says Edmunds.
The variety of tests available include everything from a simple ‘screening’ test to a full lab test. Simple screening tests detect all volatile compounds (including paint and glue) and are less reliable than full lab tests.
“We think a full lab test is a better way to go,” Edmunds says. “If we can prove with a lab test that a property was clean at the start of a tenancy, and then at some point during or at the end of a tenancy we can prove that it’s contaminated, we can then isolate the time of contamination.”
But it comes at a price. “If you want to do a full lab test and take a sample from every room, you’d be looking at $750 to $2000.”
“We’re in the process of formulating a group-wide policy for Quinovic,” Edmunds says. There are a lot of issues to sort through first though, including deciding on the best the type of testing regime.
So while this is a highly complex problem, you can rest assured that Quinovic is working towards developing a uniform policy to protect our owners’ investments. And with 26+ years in the property industry, we’re better placed than any other property management company to come up with a satisfactory solution.
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