Growing Drug Problem Leads to Residue Screening Homes Put to Meth Test

SCREENING Tasmanian homes for methamphetamine residue could soon become normal practice, according to property industry experts.

A new meth testing service has been launched in Tasmania to check for drug residue in houses.

The initiative from Meth Screen and real estate firm Harcourt Tasmania offers regular testing to detect methamphetamine or “ice” and, if a house is clean, the property owner will gain a “safe living environment” certificate.

A Mercury investigation in June this year found that Tasmanians are grappling with addiction to ice at an alarming rate, with the destructive drug now overtaking all other illicit drugs as the primary reason people seek help from a leading counselling service.

Data from Holyoake in Hobart found ice was the No. 1 illicit drug of concern, overtaking cannabis, while Rural Alive and Well Tasmania chief executive Liz Little said the drug had become a problem in rural areas, with reports that some agribusinesses had been forced to undertake drug screening of workers.

Real Estate Institute of Tasmania president Tony Collidge said the drug testing of properties for sale or rent was common interstate. “These days, it is not an outthere idea to have this sort of service available for Tasmanian property owners,” he said.

According to methamphetamine contamination expert Jackie Wright, meth vapour is odourless, colourless and easily absorbed by most surfaces.

She told the Mercury that often people did not know they were living with the residue in their home until it affected their health.

“Common side effects include respiratory problems, headaches, eye and skin irritation, sleep disturbance and behavioural problems in children,” she said.

Harcourts state property manager Kylie Smart said meth screening would be “normal practice” within a few years. She said it was a sound investment that would discourage a tenant from using the drug in a rental property. “It should enable investors to have peace of mind over their investment property,” Ms Smart said. “It also means property owners can protect themselves from liability and their nest eggs from expensive remediation.”

A basic test from Harcourts and Meth Screen starts at $300 and Ms Smart said she would advise landlords to ensure they had insurance that covered illegal drug clean-up costs — just in case.

Ms Smart said for tenants, they might prefer to apply for a rental property that has been issued with a “safe living environment” certificate. Meth Screen director Ryan Matthews said while a DIY meth residue test kit could give people an indication of a potential problem, a professional screening would provide more detailed information.