METH CON­TAM­I­NA­TION: FACT FROM FIC­TION Sharon Fox-Slater

Sort­ing fact from fic­tion

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - SHARON FOX-SLATER is the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of EBM’s RentCover. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit rentcover.com.au.

“M eth House of Hor­ror!”, “Ice Epi­demic!”, “Rental Prop­er­ties Test Pos­i­tive for Meth/ ice”. The head­lines are alarm­ing and fuel wide­spread fears about meth con­tam­i­na­tion. Con­cerns are par­tic­u­larly preva­lent in the rental in­dus­try, with sto­ries about in­vest­ment prop­er­ties be­ing used as clan­des­tine lab­o­ra­to­ries or smok­ing dens, and sub­se­quent ten­ants suf­fer­ing ill-ef­fects from ex­po­sure to the toxic residue.

With alarm bells ring­ing, agents are wor­ried that they may be man­ag­ing a tick­ing health time bomb. But is the threat as big as some would have us be­lieve?

Let’s look at a few facts and fic­tions.

FIC­TION

Any use (in­clud­ing smok­ing) of meth in a rental means it is ‘con­tam­i­nated'. Al­le­ga­tions that even trace lev­els of meth residue pose a risk have been re­buked by the New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter’s Chief Sci­ence Ad­viser, Pro­fes­sor Sir Peter Gluck­man.

“The ex­ten­sive pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing metham­phetamine con­tam­i­na­tion, along with ex­ag­ger­ated claims about the health risks posed by liv­ing in dwellings where residues of the drug can be de­tected, has led to con­sid­er­able con­cern es­pe­cially amongst ten­ants, land­lords, and po­ten­tial home buy­ers and prop­erty in­vestors,” states the Gluck­man re­port.

Pro­fes­sor Gluck­man said the risk of en­coun­ter­ing metham­phetamine on home sur­faces at lev­els that might cause harm is

FEW WOULD AR­GUE THAT AUS­TRALIA HAS A PROB­LEM WITH ‘ICE’, but is the hys­te­ria about meth con­tam­i­na­tion in rentals jus­ti­fied? Sharon Fox-Slater of EBM's Rent Cover in­ves­ti­gates.

“ex­tremely low” and found no ev­i­dence that residue from home meth smok­ing would harm fu­ture res­i­dents.

“There is no pub­lished, or ro­bust un­pub­lished, data re­lat­ing to health risks of re­sid­ing in a dwelling for­merly used only for smok­ing metham­phetamine,” the re­port high­lights.

In most cases test­ing is not war­ranted, and re­me­di­a­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate only in for­mer meth labs and prop­er­ties where “ex­ces­sive metham­phetamine use” is in­di­cated, Gluck­man noted.

FACT Meth man­u­fac­tur­ing labs (clan labs) are the main source of con­tam­i­na­tion.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing of meth poses a far greater threat to the safety of the home and the health of its oc­cu­pants.

Dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing lithium me­tal, liq­uid am­mo­nia, LPG, ace­tone, hy­drochlo­ric acid and caus­tic soda, are used when ‘cook­ing’ ice and other meth-based drugs. Not only ex­plo­sive but cor­ro­sive ma­te­ri­als are key in­gre­di­ents in the recipe – and the cock­tail of chem­i­cals can leave be­hind a toxic residue.

If a prop­erty is found to have been used as a meth lab, it will re­quire spe­cial­ist (foren­sic) clean­ing.

JURY IS OUT Rentals should be tested for meth con­tam­i­na­tion.

Any meth con­tam­i­na­tion will most likely be in­vis­i­ble, mak­ing test­ing the only way to con­firm or re­fute its pres­ence. How­ever, the need for the home to be tested de­pends on whether there is rea­son to sus­pect the prop­erty has been used as a clan lab or the oc­cu­pants were heavy meth smok­ers. Sce­nario 1 No cause to sus­pect the home was used as a clan lab or as a smok­ing den? Ac­tion: Nil. There is lit­tle rea­son to carry out test­ing.

Sce­nario 2 Sus­pect the prop­erty is be­ing used as a clan lab?

Ac­tion Call the po­lice im­me­di­ately. Sce­nario 3 Sus­pect the prop­erty has pre­vi­ously been used as a clan lab?

Ac­tion In­ves­ti­gate fur­ther (check with the lo­cal coun­cil or po­lice). If con­firmed, test­ing should be car­ried out by a Govern­men­tac­cred­ited test­ing agency.

Sce­nario 4 Sus­pect that heavy meth smok­ing may have taken place at the prop­erty?

Ac­tion Con­sider hav­ing test­ing done. DIY test kits are avail­able and, if the pre­lim­i­nary test shows a pos­i­tive re­sult, fur­ther test­ing should be car­ried out by a Govern­men­tap­proved ser­vice provider.

FIC­TION In­sur­ers won't cover the cost of meth con­tam­i­na­tion clean-ups.

Whether the cost of meth con­tam­i­na­tion clean-up is cov­ered un­der in­surance de­pends on the in­surer and their spe­cific pol­icy word­ing or cov­er­age.

RentCover pro­vides up to $65,000 in cover for clean­ing up a drug-con­tam­i­nated prop­erty if the dam­age is caused by ten­ants dur­ing the pe­riod of in­surance, along with other costs in­curred, in­clud­ing lost rental in­come while the prop­erty is re­me­di­ated.

While I am cer­tainly not sug­gest­ing that meth con­tam­i­na­tion isn’t a very real risk for some land­lords and agents, sci­ence shows that the is­sue may not be as wide­spread as some meth-test­ing op­er­a­tors would have ev­ery­one be­lieve.

As with any risk in rent­ing, the prospect of meth con­tam­i­na­tion needs to be care­fully con­sid­ered and mit­i­gated. If test­ing is war­ranted, our ad­vice is to only en­gage Gov­ern­ment-ac­cred­ited com­pa­nies to carry out test­ing and any re­me­di­a­tion works. ■ Our ad­vice about in­surance is pro­vided for your gen­eral in­for­ma­tion and does not take into ac­count your in­di­vid­ual needs. You should read the Prod­uct Dis­clo­sure State­ment and Pol­icy Word­ing prior to mak­ing a de­ci­sion; these can be ob­tained di­rectly from EBM.

WITH ALARM BELLS RING­ING, AGENTS ARE WOR­RIED THAT THEY MAY BE MAN­AG­ING A TICK­ING HEALTH TIME BOMB. FACED WITH A LAND­LORD ON THE BRINK OF HYS­TE­RIA, AGENTS WILL NEED TO TAKE THE LEAD AND BE THE SOURCE OF REA­SONED IN­FOR­MA­TION. IF A PROP­ERTY IS FOUND TO HAVE BEEN USED AS A METH LAB, IT WILL RE­QUIRE SPE­CIAL­IST FOREN­SIC CLEAN­ING.

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