Is your home an ex-meth lab?

Conveyancing Sep 28, 2020

7 min read

shoes on power line
shoes on power line

Yes, you read that right! Could your beloved home have actually previously been the hub for a clandestine drug business? Could another crime have been  committed in the property, could there be dodgy building works or any other ‘hidden nasties’ that the owner is aware of and that has not been brought to your attention?

Whilst previously the basic tenet ‘let the buyer beware’ governed most purchases new legislation came into effect earlier this year concerning the compulsory disclosure of material facts including (but not limited to): drugs, illegal (or questionable)  building works and crime directly related to the property when the property is being sold and marketed for sale.

How does this recent legislation affect me?

Very basically, a Vendor and/or Agent must disclose information that a Buyer should know or ought to be alerted to and would be of interest to them when purchasing a property. This includes (as mentioned above) whether the Vendor has knowledge as to the use of the property for illicit drug activity, the presence of asbestos, building works without required permits, knowledge of pest damage/activity and whether there has been a significant event at the property such as flood or bushfire. Where previously there was the predominant onus on a Purchaser to make their own enquiries, this recent legislation has seen responsibility as to reporting and disclosure (somewhat) returned back to the onus of the Vendor and their representative Agent.

What is meth-testing?

What grabbed our attention (as you can tell by the title of this article) was the meth lab example. It is reported that residue from smoking and producing methamphetime in homes is ‘basically invisible’ and reportedly stays in a property until it has been properly cleaned.

Research has found that chemicals from both meth production and use in a property are highly absorbable through the skin and commentary has been made that a crawling baby could potentially ingest enough residue from a meth afflicted floor to ‘get high’.

Frightening to say the least!

What are the impacts of residing in a meth affected property?

What then happens when you move in (or allow a tenant to move in) to a property which contains meth residue? A rhetorical question on the legal front perhaps.
What we have found is that chemical residue can seep in to soft furnishings, carpets, timber floors, walls and ceilings and can cause stinging eyes, nose and throat irritation, respiratory issues, rashes, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, blurry vision, confusion and headaches (to name but a few as listed by Flinders University).

What we do know is that properties can become contaminated when there is recreational use or manufacturing of illicit drugs within its walls, the contamination levels of course vary dependent upon the situation and ‘type’ of use which at the extreme end of things (noting the possible side effects listed above) can result in properties needing to be stripped and clinically cleaned prior to habitation.

There are tests available that can be conducted in your home (or potential home) to determine whether there is toxic residue leftover from illegal drug activities that have occurred in the property.

Some organisations are calling for methamphetamine testing to be compulsory when buying or renting a property, in a similar vein to getting a building and pest inspection. This way the property is able to be decontaminated prior to moving in, ensuring you don’t expose yourself or your family to these substances.
Testing is cheap at around $100-$150 per test and also possible to DIY.

When should I get my property tested?

The recommendation is to test the property prior to purchase (or make your purchase conditional upon a satisfactory test), and, if it’s an investment property, to complete a test at the end of the Tenancy to ensure there’s no contamination for the next Tenant. This also allows you to claim any costs the old tenant may be liable for – decontaminating a meth-affected property is not a cheap activity (and to mitigate any claim by a new Tenant as a result of any meth related issues).

The Upshot

If you’re unsure about whether to get meth testing conducted when you purchase property, bring new Tenants into an existing investment or are moving into a rental yourself – chat with the team at Entourage Legal who can explain your rights and run you through your rights and responsibilities.

by Caroline Symington