House WOFs could include P-lab testing

CHRIS HYDE AND PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014

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Houses used as P-labs could rival leaky homes as a problem, with a warrant of fitness system needed to reassure buyers, the Real Estate Institute says.

Chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said meth labs that were being discovered were only "the tip of the iceberg".

"With leaky homes you have a profile of the kind of house that can be affected, but meth labs can be anywhere.

"Not surprisingly, meth cooks don't sign a register when they start up."

She called for a "warrant of fitness" system for houses, which would include a test for meth at a cost of $100 to $500.

Other issues, for example the state of wiring, could also be covered.

The problem of meth-tainted homes had reached the point where a test for P was as important for buyers as a Lim report and a building code check.

"To a degree this is the new ‘leaky homes' but in a way it's worse because it's harder to spot.

"Perhaps one day we will see legislation that compels homeowners to declare whether their home is a meth home when they sell."

Contaminated Site Solutions Limited director Victor Boyd said the issue of contaminated homes was becoming more prevalent.

"More people are asking questions," he said.

He had received calls from young couples who had bought their first home, not realising it was contaminated.

Meth-contaminated homes could be "extremely dangerous" Mr Boyd said.

"There are some nasty chemicals involved."

P-lab exposure could cause shortness of breath, dizziness, irritation, or burns to the skin, eyes, nose and mouth.

There was also a problem with property owners discovering, but failing to report clandestine labs, he said.

"They'll say get out or I'll call the police. Then they'll try to clean it up themselves."

In Foxton, tradesman Kris Harding has called on the community to help Derek and Ceridwen Hooper, who bought a retirement home only to find it was contaminated by meth.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said the scale of the problem did not justify imposing an expensive test for meth contamination on property owners.

"It is certainly an issue, but it would be misleading to suggest it's approaching the same level as the $20 billion leaky homes problem."

Police estimated that about 50 homes each year were found to be contaminated by meth, Mr Smith said.

He sympathised with the Hoopers.

"They need to explore the legal avenues open to them."

Mr Smith said had been contacted by landlords who faced clean-up bills of tens of thousands of dollars after tenants had set up P-labs.

Many were left out of pocket, but in one case a landlord was able to claim $30,000 through the courts after a drug dealer's assets were seized under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.

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Overall the best solution remained the targeting of P makers and dealers, Mr Smith said.

WHAT TO DO

A property owner discovering a P-lab should:

Arrange for the property to be cleaned and decontaminated by a professional cleaning company.

Have the property tested to establish that the level of contaminants is within an acceptable level.

If landlords rent out a contaminated property, they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, and other legislation such as the Building Act and the Health Act.

A real estate agent selling a property known to be contaminated may face action by the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. 

TELLTALE SIGNS

Signs of a meth lab may include:

Unusual chemical smells.

Numerous chemical containers stored or stockpiled.

Stained glass equipment and cookware.

Numerous cold tablet packages lying around or in the rubbish.

Portable gas tanks or other cylinders not normally used in the area.

Chemical stains around household kitchen sink, laundry, toilet or stormwater drains.

Yellow/brown staining of interior floor, wall or ceiling and surfaces.

Unusual activity, especially at night.

- The Dominion Post

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