HOUS­TON, WE HAVE A [DRUG] PROB­LEM

BRYAN GOODALL EX­PLAINS why we all need to be proac­tive about the grow­ing prob­lem of meth users in Aus­tralia, es­pe­cially when it comes to prop­erty man­age­ment.

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - BRYAN GOODALL is the Na­tional Sales Man­ager for Oc­tief, a lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sult­ing group of­fer­ing a di­verse range of hazardous ma­te­rial, en­vi­ron­men­tal, as­bestos and lab­o­ra­tory anal­y­sis ser­vices. For more in­for­ma­tion visit oc­tief.com.au.

Bryan Goodall

Ac­cord­ing to ABC News, the num­ber of Aus­tralians us­ing the il­le­gal drug metham­phetamine – in­clud­ing crys­tal metham­phetamine, or ice (meth) – has tripled over the past five years, based on Na­tional Drug and Al­co­hol Re­search Cen­tre es­ti­mates. In 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Crime Com­mis­sion, po­lice found 744 se­cret meth labs across Aus­tralia.

With th­ese statis­tics comes an in­creased risk that a prop­erty you man­age, or your agency has listed for sale, may be con­tam­i­nated. And this is not just those ‘clan­des­tine meth labs' that you may have seen some sen­sa­tional head­lines about in the past; the ones where you see the ten­ants have used the kitchen or garage as a meth lab. Those are the ob­vi­ous ones: If you walk into a prop­erty where the ten­ants or pre­vi­ous own­ers have been ‘bak­ing bad', there are some pretty tell-tale signs that there has been cook­ing or man­u­fac­tur­ing in that house.

The big­ger is­sue is now more about meth users ‘at home' or in the prop­erty. The rea­son for this is that there are some­times no signs what­so­ever of meth con­sump­tion go­ing on. It could be your house, my house or any other house – and it looks and smells like any other house would. Noth­ing is strange or out of place and you have no way of know­ing whether the place is con­tam­i­nated just by look­ing at it.

But the is­sue is that it will be con­tam­i­nated, some­times at the same lev­els that would re­sult if there were a drug lab in the prop­erty. This poses some se­ri­ous risks, es­pe­cially for peo­ple who don't know they are around that con­tam­i­na­tion. It is to­tally fea­si­ble that one set of ten­ants moved out, leav­ing ev­ery­thing nice and tidy; maybe even putting on a fresh coat of paint on the way out. Then the new ten­ant moves in and the only sign that there was ever meth in the prop­erty may be a sud­den ill­ness, or some­one doesn't know where their strange symp­toms are com­ing from. So we re­ally need to ‘de­bunk' the com­monly held be­lief that meth con­tam­i­na­tion only re­sults from clan­des­tine drug labs. The sub­ject of us­age is a much more wide­spread prob­lem and sadly it's on the rise.

Un­for­tu­nately, the drug meth is such a toxic and pow­er­ful drug that residue can seep into any por­ous sur­face – car­pet, cur­tains, even tim­ber floors and frames.

Our neigh­bours in New Zealand have been more proac­tive about the prob­lem than us here in Aus­tralia. There was a case in Welling­ton in 2013; a wa­ter­shed mo­ment where meth-us­ing ten­ants cost the owner some­where in the vicin­ity of $65,000 on the sale of their prop­erty. Lo­cals had alerted the real es­tate agent sell­ing the house to do the test­ing af­ter ru­mours that the prop­erty had been used to man­u­fac­ture the drug. In fact, once tested, it showed that there was only recre­ational use; but that was enough to dam­age the prop­erty's value.

To­day in New Zealand it is com­mon prac­tice to reg­u­larly bench­mark prop­er­ties for traces of the drug. As a re­sult of this and an in­tense me­dia push and pub­lic aware­ness campaign meth us­age has dropped con­sid­er­ably. In Amer­ica, many cases have been pub­lished in the New York Daily News and on meth­lab­homes.com, high­light­ing se­ri­ous in­juries to the oc­cu­pants and some caus­ing their chil­dren se­vere ill­ness as well. We need to do our bit to raise aware­ness too.

Here are some facts to con­sider: • When a home has been used as a meth lab, it typ­i­cally costs any­thing from $25,000 to $100,000 to clean it up. • In NSW alone, six to 10 homes are de­mol­ished due to meth con­tam­i­na­tion each year. • Smok­ing is now the most pop­u­lar way to con­sume meth; and it causes worse con­tam­i­na­tion than in­ject­ing or in­hal­ing (or, for that mat­ter, any other method of in­gest­ing the drug) Un­for­tu­nately, meth us­age is a grow­ing prob­lem in Aus­tralia, more wide­spread than most peo­ple re­alise. When pur­chas­ing a prop­erty we check for things like ter­mites, and other dan­gers like lead paint and as­bestos, as a mat­ter of course. It stands to rea­son that we should take ac­tion where pos­si­ble to keep our own­ers' in­vest­ments safe­guarded and fu­ture ten­ants free from ill­nesses that can be a re­sult of meth con­tam­i­na­tion. Ed­u­ca­tion is a step in the right di­rec­tion. ■

THERE ARE SOME­TIMES NO SIGNS WHAT­SO­EVER OF METH CON­SUMP­TION GO­ING ON.

1. newswire.co.nz/2013/05/methusers-as-bad-as-meth-labs-for­land­lords/ 2. Source: ABC

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