Couple's home tainted by meth lab

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 15:04 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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Meth houses could become as big a problem in New Zealand as leaky homes, the real estate institute says.

The claim comes as a Foxton couple in their 60s have been forced to live in a caravan after the home they bought to retire in was found to be contaminated.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said meth houses were becoming an increasingly "insidious" part of New Zealand's housing stock, and referring to the couple's plight, said it could become an issue to rival the leaky homes crisis in future.

Derek and Ceridwen Hooper bought what was to be their retirement home in Foxton at the end of September, but after a comment from a neighbour they had it tested and found it had been used to cook the Class A drug.

They shifted into their caravan on the property and spent $4500 stripping the house bare to decontaminate it, before they called plasterer Kris Harding.

The couple, who were too emotional to speak to Fairfax Media, told Harding of their plight and he offered to repair the house at no 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 hoped to get more offers in the coming days.

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

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

"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."

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 there been no 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."

O'Sullivan said the problem of meth houses had got to a point where a test for P was as important for buyers as a LIM report and a building code check.

Every house was a possible candidate, especially a rental property in an isolated location, she said.

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

"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, but more needed to be done to encourage those selling their homes to strengthen their "brand" by getting their houses certified as meth-free.

That might help avoid cases like the Hoopers', 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," she said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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