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LANDLORDS and prospective homebuyers are being urged to consider screening properties for meth contamination, with one testing firm saying more than half the homes in WA it analyses are tainted with ice.
There are also real estate industry calls for the State Government to legislate a mandatory system similar to the zero-tolerance approach in New Zealand, where every property needs a decontamination clearance certificate.
Harcourts WA chief executive Paul Blakely said “best practice” was to recommend a meth test mainly on rentals, although the costs of up to tens of thousands of dollars were a clear “inhibitor”.
“Stories we’re getting are that some houses are so bad they can’t be fixed,” he said.
“It’s probably heading that way (the NZ system). If you look at white ant certificates, that’s a must do with every property these days … this (meth) should be no different if it’s going to have that long-lasting effect and it can cause that much damage to our properties.”
Phil Taylor, a real estate agent in Perth’s south-eastern suburbs, said the past three contracts he had written up came back with positive meth readings — one from a property in Camillo suspected of being a drug lab that was 13,000 times over the minimum standard of 0.5 micrograms per 100cm2.
Due to the high costs in testing for meth and then cleaning up residue and some questionable results, Mr Taylor has put the brakes on his practice of insisting on a meth screen for every property on his books — but three quarters of screenings he had done were coming back over the threshold.
He said many agents steered clear of this issue because of the extra costs and headaches involved. The grey areas meant the State Government needed to step in and regulate, Mr Taylor said.
One of the main testing companies, Meth Screen, has analysed 112 properties in WA since January and 53 per cent have tested positive to meth residue.
Meth Screen chief executive Ryan Matthews said many people didn’t realise the drug’s residue hung around for “decades” and contamination was not only caused by a property being used as a meth lab.
“People are starting to realise that smoking ice, enough of it, will contaminate a property,” he said, adding Mandurah, Rockingham and Armadale were the most common locations for his firm’s jobs.
One of his cases involved a young family with children who had been living in a contaminated rental and started demonstrating worrying symptoms, including shakes, headaches, insomnia, behavioural issues, skin rashes and respiratory problems.
The highest reading he had seen was 7200 above the minimum, while the most expensive clean-up he’s aware of has cost $60,000.
Mr Matthews said legislation was needed to make the issue black and white — you can’t sell or rent a house that has meth in it.
Bruce Wheeler, who runs a meth-screening service in Perth, said ice contamination, which he’s found in high levels in many areas of a house including children’s bedrooms, could have “terrifying” health impacts.
There’s a lot of information out there, should be a lot more happening but I think everybody is terrified that once they crack the lid just how many worms are going to fall out,
One southern suburbs agent said it suggests owners get a meth test done so at least they have a certificate of clean habitation before a new tenant moved in.
“When or if it does become mandatory it’s going to cost people a lot of money,” he said.
Michael, a property owner in Camillo, who didn’t want his surname published, evicted his tenant in August after she fell behind in her rent payments, and after splitting up with his partner they wanted to sell the property.
Suspecting a problem, they had the house screened for meth and the initial test came back as more than 800 times over the threshold. Michael is getting a second round of testing done this week. He thinks the previous tenants could have buried meth residue in the backyard rather than flushing it down the toilet.
“We have to try and sell this place before mid-March, the bank has given us until then because we fell behind in the mortgage because the tenant fell behind in the rent,” he said.
The first test cost Michael $400, the second, more forensic analysis will be $1650 and a clean-up bill could be tens of thousands of dollars. Michael believes meth screening should be done as part of three-monthly rental inspections.
REIWA president Damian Collins said while meth residue tests were common in New Zealand he noted that the country’s chief science adviser Peter Gluckman recently reported that there was “absolutely no evidence” of harm caused by passive meth use. He said REIWA supported the Government’s stance of no plans to make meth testing mandatory.
He urged owners to review their insurance policies to be aware of the risks, and said the industry code of conduct meant agents had to disclose material facts to buyers and tenants, including if that property had been used as a meth lab.
A Department of Communities spokesman said 20 public housing properties in WA have tested positive for meth contamination since May last year.
“All 20 properties were remediated, and where the department found the tenants were responsible for the contamination, the costs associated with testing and remediation were charged to those tenants,” he said.
Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said meth contamination in rental properties was one of several issues being considered in the Government’s review of the Residential Tenancies Act.
A Health Department spokeswoman said an “interim management system” for illicit drug smoke contamination, including meth, was being finalised, where homes would be reported to the department by police and the option of “voluntary remediation” for low-level contamination from smoking rather than from manufacturing.
If you suspect that your home or rental property has been contaminated with dangerous methamphetamine, consider meth residue test with us as soon as possible. We are your first call for Meth Testing in Perth.
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- Any property can contain hazardous amounts of meth contamination detrimental to the occupants’ health. If you have bought a house that you suspect may be contaminated, contact Meth Screen for meth test in Perth.
- Meth contamination is rarely visible and once contamination has occurred the residues can have a half life of 200 years and remain in surfaces for decades until the problem is properly remedied and the property is professionally decontaminated.
- Property contaminated by meth poses serious health risks such as an increased risk of damage to the central nervous system, behavioural and neurological disorders in children, birth defects and even miscarriages. Exposure to low concentrations of meth residue can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and nausea, respiratory problems, skin irritation and allergy type symptoms.
- Compensation is being sought and rewarded to tenants who have lived in meth contaminated properties and litigation cases relating to meth contaminated homes are on the increase.
- Methamphetamine decontamination of newly acquired properties can cost tens of thousands of dollars and may not be covered by insurance. In some cases where the property is badly contaminated, it may have to be demolished.
- A contaminated property will decrease significantly in market value. Obtain a meth report, just as you would a building or pest report before making an investment.
Landlords have a responsibility to ensure their property is safe for future occupants and Property Managers have a duty of care to advise their clients about the risks of methamphetamine contamination.
We are a group of trained testers who offer independent and professional on-site methamphetamine test services for properties in Australia.
For Meth Testing in Perth, WA 6000, Australia book with Meth Screen today.
1800 020 348