Couple's home tainted by meth lab

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:10 10/01/2014
house paint
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ

HELPING HAND: SBR Plastering’s Kris Harding is restoring a Foxton meth house, purchased by a retiring couple without knowledge of its background.

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A Manawatu tradesman is calling for urgent community action to help a Foxton couple in their 60s after he discovered them living in a caravan beside the methamphetamine-contaminated house they bought.

The couple didn't know their new property had been contaminated.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Helen O'Sullivan says meth houses are becoming an increasingly "insidious" part of New Zealand's housing stock, and the plight of people like the Hoopers of Norbiton Rd could in coming years be an issue to rival the leaky homes crisis.

Derek and Ceridwen Hooper bought what was to be their retirement home in Foxton at the end of September, only for a comment from a neighbour and a subsequent test to confirm the house had been used to cook the Class A drug.

They shifted into their caravan on the property and spent $4500 of their own money stripping the house bare to decontaminate it, before they called sole trader Kris Harding of SBR Plastering at the end of 2013.

The couple, who were too emotional to speak to the Manawatu Standard, broke down and told Mr Harding of their plight. He immediately offered to repair the house without charge.

"I thought about giving a discount but I kind of realised there was no way I could justify charging anything," he said.

"I've put all my other jobs on hold until this is done but I can't afford to do everything on my own."

He has emailed most building supply companies in the region asking for support. So far he's had an offer of a few hundred dollars' worth of building supplies from ITM Levin and is hoping for more in the coming days.

A bit of vinyl from one company, some carpet from another - anything would help, Mr Harding said.

"It guts me to see people going through this sort of ordeal.

"They've worked their arses off, retired to a home of their choice and it sucks that they've been put on their knees by something like this."

Mr Harding said if the community came together to help, the Hoopers could be back in the house in as little as two weeks, but he was angry that there had not been support available for them sooner.

"It seems like at the moment, no-one is responsible for meth houses and there's nothing to help people when something like this happens.

"If there was funding out there that allowed me to survive doing it, I would love to turn this into a business.

"The idea of helping people that have bought these sort of houses really appeals to me."

Ms O'Sullivan said REINZ felt the problem of meth houses had got to a point where a test for P had to be put by purchasers on the same level of importance as a LIM report and a building code check.

Every house was a possible candidate, although a rental property that was in an isolated location was more likely to have been used for a meth lab, she said.

"To a degree this is the new ‘leaky homes' but in a way it's worse because it's harder to spot. There's no tell-tale stain above the sink to go on. They're really hard to pick."

For now the responsibility for a meth house had to lie with the homeowner, she said.

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But more needed to be done to encourage those selling their homes to strengthen their "brand" by getting their house certified as meth-free. That might help avoid cases like the Hoopers', Ms O'Sullivan said.

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

- Manawatu Standard

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