What Landlords Need to Know About Meth Contamination

Before becoming a landlord, methamphetamine was probably something you only ever encountered in movies and on the news.

As a landlord it is your responsibility that you must provide a clean property and check for any signs of ‘P’ before renting it out.

The law around meth contamination goes further than simply providing a clean property for tenants to rent. In fact, it doesn’t matter how visually clean a property is if it is contaminated by meth. This means 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.

Tenants have rights if they suspect meth contamination during their tenancy. Specifically, if a tenant believes your property has been used as a meth lab and hasn’t been properly cleaned, they can ask you to clean it. The can also end the tenancy.

The police and other local authorities have a role too. If they suspect the property is contaminated with Meth, they will inform your local council.

So, what are your obligations regarding meth contamination? Before a tenancy, they include:

  • Checking for any signs of ‘P’
  • Testing
  • Cleaning/decontamination and testing again

During a tenancy, they include:

  • Checking/testing
  • Cleaning and testing again

Checking for Meth Contamination

According to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the following warning signs may indicate your property is being used as a meth lab:

  • Chemical smells that are not normal
  • The presence of unusually high amounts of chemicals like solvents and acids
  • Equipment used to create stain glass windows
  • The presence of glass containers with tubing fitted
  • The presence of an unusually large number of cold tablet boxes
  • Unexpected gas tanks
  • Stains on sinks, drains, or toilets that look like chemical stains
  • Staining on walls, ceilings, floors, and other surfaces that is a yellow-brown colour

In addition to using the above warning signs, you can also get low-cost testing kits (DIY kits) which will give you an indication of whether there is any presence of Meth in the property.

Testing for Meth Contamination

If you suspect your property is contaminated by meth, you can get it professionally tested. This will confirm the contamination level before you bring in professional cleaners for decontamination process.

Of course, you can skip testing at this stage to move straight to cleaning. If you strongly believe meth is present, this may be the cheapest option in the long-run.

Cleaning and Testing Again

If your property is contaminated by meth, you must get it professionally cleaned by a company with experience of doing similar work. Often, the cleaning/decontamination will be covered by your insurance cover however its strongly suggested to review your insurance policy ensuring such events are covered.

Once cleaned, you will need to get the property professionally tested to confirm it is suitable for renting.

Other Things You Need to Know About Meth Contamination in Your Rental Properties

  • During a tenancy, you can only test the ‘rented property’ for meth. This means you cannot test the personal belongings of the tenant.
  • You should only proceed with testing for meth if the tenant agrees. If they don’t agree, you should take legal advice before proceeding.
  • Make sure your insurance includes cover for meth problems to protect you against the cost of cleaning and professional testing if meth is discovered. Remember, some insurers cap the amount of claim they will pay in the event of a meth contamination.
  • When making a claim on your insurance, you may have to prove the meth contamination happened during the time the insurance was in place. To ensure you have the information to prove this, you should test your properties regularly.
  • Remember that while there is no legal requirement to test a property for meth contamination before a new rental agreement, your insurance company may insist on it.
  • Make sure your tenancy agreements include a clause relating to meth testing.

Real Case – Auckland landlord suffers $99k meth damage

A landlord of an Auckland property says she suffered $99,958 of damage to her place in Hillsborough when it was rented. http://nzh.tw/12007370

Meth de-contamination can be costly process, even though you are not responsible for it occurring. Therefore, it is important you as landlords understand your obligations, so you can act quickly and take the necessary steps if and when it happens.

For further questions & discussion, please contact Oaks Property Management Ltd at enquiries@oaksproperty.co.nz.

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