Meth contamination — what landlords need to know

Meth contamination rental home

Meth contaminated properties have popped up a lot in the media over the last few years and, in June 2017, a new national standard came in to provide guidance on the testing and clean-up of methamphetamine in houses.

Standards New Zealand manager Carmen Mak said it would make houses where meth had been found safer.

“Application of the standard will provide assurance that activities such as screening, sampling, testing, assessing, and decontamination of contaminated properties, and disposal of their contents, are carried out in accordance with good practice.”

For landlords, meth contamination is a huge concern. On one side you want to keep your tenants safe and on the other you need to make sure you don’t find yourself with a contaminated house or unable to claim on your insurance.

By following the new standard and operating with best practice, landlords can minimise the risk. Keep reading to find out more.

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It’s a potent stimulant and it has long-lasting and harmful effects on the central nervous system, making it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

How does a property become contaminated with meth?

Properties can become contaminated when tenants use or manufacture meth on the premises, and the level of contamination varies on how much is used or manufactured. When meth is manufactured, contamination tends to be higher and the home may need to be completely stripped and cleaned and, in extreme cases, demolished.

Luckily, strict procedures for identifying meth contamination are becoming more commonplace in New Zealand.

What are my obligations as a landlord?

It is your responsibility to provide a safe and healthy home for your tenants. If a landlord rents out a property that is contaminated, 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.

When is the best time to do a meth-test?

If possible, conduct a test prior to buying a property as part of your due diligence. The costs of decontamination are high and you want all the information before purchasing.
Here at Harcourts, for example, we now have a clause in all our sale and purchase agreements stating a buyer can decide whether to carry out a contamination test as part of their due diligence process.

If you already own a property and suspect it may be contaminated, it’s vital to take immediate action for the safety of your tenants. If they’re living in a contaminated home, they’re exposed to serious health risks in both the short- and long-term, so “now” is always the best time.

How do I have my property tested?

A test usually costs between $100 and $300. Your property manager can advise the right method of testing for you and will put you in contact with a reputable company.
We encourage you to take meth contamination extremely seriously and be vigilant in having your property tested. And, if you find that your property is contaminated, we recommend that you tell the police or local council.

Does my landlord insurance cover meth contamination?

It’s vital to regularly check and update your insurance cover. Some policies may outright excluded drug-related damages and some policies limit cover to a certain amount — a limit of $20,000 for example is unlikely to cover a full decontamination of a meth lab.

There may be certain obligations landlords have to meet such as: exercising reasonable care and obtaining references for tenants; completing inspections every three months and upon change of tenants; keeping written reports of inspections. You may also need to provide evidence that the property became contaminated while you were insured, in which case you will need to have carried out previous meth tests and have recorded their results and dates.

Harcourts Property Management has strict processes in place to protect our landlords against methamphetamine contamination. We take great care in our tenant selection process, we conduct thorough inspections every three months and we keep full documentation of the previously listed items — whatever happens, we’ll help make sure you’re covered should your property become contaminated.

Get in touch to find out more about our services, and click here to download the full standard from the Standards New Zealand website.

 

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