Mandatory Meth Testing?

A MIDLAND real estate agent believes methamphetamine testing must be made compulsory for all home sales after experiencing a spike in properties testing positive for the highly addictive drug.

The damage methamphetamine can cause is evident in the state of a property in Beechboro, just across the road from a local primary school.

A crack pipe on the roof and discarded syringe packets near the hot water system are nothing compared to the destruction, and the smell, inside the house.

Boarded up by WA Police after the owners were arrested, mortgage payments lapsed and the bank stepped in, calling on LJ Hooker to sell the home.

LJ Hooker Midland licensee Richard Lowenhoff is seeing more and more mortgage repossession sales, and five of the last seven properties he has dealt with have tested positive for methamphetamine residue.

These positive tests mean the homes have to undergo extensive remediation works.

While the bank ultimately pays for the remediation, Mr Lowenhoff said the increase in positive tests was hurting homeowners and investors.

“A few years ago we wouldn’t have come across any and now it’s just becoming a bigger and bigger problem,” he said.

“It’s time consuming to get the properties ready to market and it effects the value.

“We have to disclose to every potential buyer that comes through what the contamination was, and how it’s been rectified.

“Personally if it had been contaminated I would walk away, and quite a few have.”

Not only is there a financial cost, Liam Taylor of Savana Environmental, a company that specialises in the detection and remediation of environmental hazards including asbestos and methamphetamine, said there is a very real health risk in homes that are testing positive.

“At the lower end of the scale you could get nausea and headaches,” he said.

“The higher end of the scale would be cancer, impacts on unborn foetuses, the list goes on.

“Methamphetamine production methods vary but they can use lithium from batteries, ammonia, lead, the list goes on.

“As the frequency of users grows, we’re seeing more and more contaminated homes and as more and more people are getting savvy to it, testing is increasing.”

Mr Lowenhoff said he believed the real estate industry should head towards mandatory methamphetamine testing on every sale, a point that Mr Taylor agrees with.

“For the standard mum and dad or an investor that’s selling their investment property, if this is an issue that comes in the future which I can 100 per cent see it is going to be, it’s going to have a massive impact on what they can sell that house for,” Mr Lowenhoff said.

“I think this sort of testing needs to be standard across the board, mandatory for the sale of any home, not just bank repossessions.”

Real Estate Institute of WA president Hayden Grove said the industry was moving in that direction, but said they were proceeding with caution due to concern over the accuracy of testing.

“We are aware of the problem and that it is a growing problem, we’re not in denial of that,” he said.

“What we understand in our early research is you can get a vast array of different testing equipment for methamphetamine that yield vastly different results.

“It could be that someone visited the property once who had residue on their clothing and it will show up in a test.

“What do you do with that against a test that shows it’s vast and everywhere in a property where it was being manufactured in a bathroom?

“That’s what we’re wrangling with at the Institute, and we’re talking with our regulators, the Department of Mines and Industry Regulation and Safety about what a good, fair and reasonable outcome might be.

“What happens if we introduce this testing, and a home owner finds there was already residue there when they go to sell and they have to cop the bill?

“It’s somewhat inevitable there will have to be mandatory testing, but what form that takes we’re currently working through and we’re going to be supportive of anything that protects the community.”

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