Methamphetamine is a dangerous and toxic drug that seems to be in the news every other day. This highly addictive drug can be cooked up by anyone, just about anywhere from the back seat of a car to the highly popular and favourite place for ‘P Cooks’ rental houses...
As a buyer or an owner looking to rent out a property this poses a real risk to both your health and your finances should you need to decontaminate your property or have it demolished. People in the property market know that Meth aka P contamination is dangerous but don’t know to what extent, and this confusion isn’t helped by sensationalised stories in the media.
Here is a list of things you need to know:
Anyone can cook meth, you don’t need a background in scientific study and there is no stereotypical persona. In New Zealand people from all walks of life have been caught and convicted, from low life gang members to that lovely family next door in one of the best suburbs in town. Every house you look at and every person looking to rent out a property poses a risk, so do your homework before making a decision.
What are the signs to look for? Cooking meth or P tends to leave a blue hue on the walls of a building, so check if there are any blue markings. Alternatively has the house been freshly painted and/or re-carpeted, if so this could have been done to hide the fact that meth had been cooked there. When you spend some time in the property do you have a strange tingly feeling at the back of your mouth, feelings of dizziness, nausea or do your eyes start to sting, these are all makers of possible exposure to the toxic drug.
What are the standards and guidelines around methamphetamine exposure? There are no legal standards relating to how to deal with a contaminated building. There are however a list of guidelines created by the NZ Ministry of Health in 2010 to help people negate the issue. These guidelines were revised in 2016 to take into account new found research an international standards.
If a meth test on your house comes back positive how dangerous is it? If someone smokes meth or P in a house just once, it can return a positive test. That does not necessarily mean the house is a danger zone that needs immediate decontamination, what it means is the house has been exposed to the drug. Believe it or not, there are safe levels of methamphetamine that a person can be exposed to that pose no risk to humans or animals. The higher the levels of the drug in an environment, the higher the risk to your health. If your test results come back under the Ministry of Health’s guidelines then your property is safe to live in. If the test results come back higher, then immediate action should be taken.
Note: DIY meth test kits are freely available in the NZ market but are not as reliable as professional testing. DIY kits may in some cases show misleadingly lower levels of the drug, if not used correctly.
Can I decontaminated the building myself? Decontamination of a building is required when the environment becomes too toxic for people to live in safely. As a result this, work needs to be carried out by professionals with the appropriate safety equipment and knowledge. Whilst professional help is expensive, it’s not worth the risk to your personal health to undertake the work yourself. Not only will you be exposed to higher levels of the drug, you may not be able to decontaminate the site to the Ministry’s standards and put your family or tenants at risk as a result. We do not under any circumstances recommend attempting to decontaminate a building yourself.
How can you protect yourself? If you are looking to buy a house, have your lawyer add in a clause that the house must be tested for contamination and that the sale will be abandoned should any tests come back positive. This gives you the legal rights to walk away unscathed before the sale goes through should any issues arise.
In addition, according to the NZ Tenancy Services, “If landlords rent out a property that is contaminated by ‘P’, they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, as well as other legislation such as the Building Act and the Health Act.” They also note that it is up to both the landlord and the tenant to check that a property is not contaminated with methamphetamine before commencing the rental.
As a precaution we recommend that before buying or renting a property, review your health insurance and property insurance schemes to ensure that they cover issues relating to methamphetamine, be that illness or damage to property.
At the end of the day you need to look after your health, the health of your family and that of your tenants. If at any point you think there is the smallest chance a property could be contaminated have it professionally tested (in fact, have all new properties tested as a precaution). If a property comes back with a positive reading then call in the professionals and get it decontaminated properly.