Toxic property shock at P houses

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014

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Blacked-out windows, a safe in the main bedroom and hideous interior decorating: another ‘P' house is for sale.

The three-bedroom home in the Auckland suburb of Glen Eden is priced at $375,000, which is beyond the reach of many first time buyers because of the amount of de-toxification work required after it was used to manufacture drugs. But for investors, it's a chance to cash in.

Bayleys real estate agent Joan Collins said methamphetamine contamination could actually be a selling point for people looking for a do-up or bargain.

She had been fielding two or three calls a day since listing the Glen Eden property last month. The advertisement is honest: "P house for sale."

"It has to be full disclosure," Collins said.

"In some cases you sell ‘as is where is'. You can't do open homes because it's a contaminated property."

Home-hunter Amy Batty ruled out the Glen Eden house when she spotted it.

"Most people looking for their first home do not expect to have much left over for renovations once they've bought, so the option of buying a P house with so much work to be done, at the prices they are selling for, is not a realistic one for many of us."

When Collins first visited the address, before knowing it was contaminated, she coughed for hours afterwards. A test for methamphetamine was positive.

Chemicals from the manufacture of methamphetamine can penetrate a house's building materials, leaving it dangerous to inhabitants.

People can suffer from diseases of the central nervous system, breathing difficulties, asthma and skin rashes.

Collins said whoever bought the Glen Eden house could either put it through a certified decontamination process or remove it and subdivide the 936m2 of land. Interested buyers would factor the associated costs of decontamination into their offer, she said.

Envirocheck Forensics, which tests and decontaminates P houses around New Zealand, found 10 properties testing positive for methamphetamine in just the past fortnight.

Envirocheck office manager Jasmine Pruden said half of the properties they tested come back positive for drug contamination.

The cost of purging a house of chemicals can range from $1200 to $95,000.

In the worst cases Envirocheck stripped the house to its shell.

P manufacturers were getting smarter, Pruden said. "They are realising most people look for signs in the kitchen and bathroom so they set up the lab in the bedroom or wash house. They are trying to outsmart us."

She said P-labs were a problem affecting all parts of New Zealand.

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"Not only does it devalue the house but if you're letting the property it's against the law. There's the health threat, especially to children and the elderly."

The Christchurch District Court heard last week that children found at a P-lab had rashes and methamphetamine residue in their hair.

Their 32-year-old mother was jailed for permitting the house to be used for drug production and neglecting her children, aged 12 and 13 at the time.

P-HOUSE DANGERS

P manufacturers use substances extracted from toxic household chemicals such as drain cleaner and battery acid.

Toxic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, anhydrous ammonia and iodine are used.

Highly toxic residues from fumes permeate walls, carpet, wood and plaster in homes used as meth labs.

Health risks include burns, respiratory and neurological damage.

Specialist cleaning companies remove contaminated building materials and soils and do before and after testing. 

- Sunday Star Times

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