THE discovery of clandestine drug laboratories, commonly known as clan or meth labs, in suburban homes makes the news regularly but dangerous chemical residues left on the premises can cause serious health issues long after the legal process has been completed.
Consumer Protection recently updated information on its website about these illicit drug laboratories to help tenants, landlords and property owners better understand their rights and responsibilities.
Many agencies and authorities are involved in the notification and clean-up processes for clan labs. The updated web page provides relevant information and links, in addition to details about breach notices and lodging complaints with Consumer Protection.
If the buyer or tenant of a property becomes ill from exposure to harmful chemical residues because it was a former clan lab, then the real estate agency and the property owner could be at risk of legal action.
Where there is, or there should be, some knowledge of the former illegal use of the property, then pleading ignorance by real estate professionals is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid proceedings under the Australian Consumer Law, or to avoid potential civil claims for compensation.
In WA, the Real Estate and Business Agents Code of Conduct requires practitioners to make all reasonable efforts to find out the facts material to a transaction and to make these facts known to all parties who may be affected by them.
While agents and property managers cannot disclose what they don’t know, they must take due care in ascertaining material facts about any property or business they sell or lease. Consumer Protection regards the non-disclosure of a serious health hazard, such as a property containing harmful chemical residue as a result of being a former clan lab, as a breach of the Code.
Tenants and buyers should be upfront about asking if a property has been used as a drug lab or if any ‘fit for habitation’ upgrades have been ordered on the property in the past. Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard
Caitlin Fairless and Reece Wessman at their lot.