Councils reliant on property owners to disclose meth decontamination
Councils in our two biggest cities say they are relying on residential property owners to come clean over meth decontamination work.
At present, there is no legal obligation for property owners to notify their councils if P cleanup work has been carried out.
If the information is provided, councils will add it to the Lim, or land information memorandum, report on the property, which outlines all information held by councils about a property, including its history.
Wellington City Council (WCC) has confirmed it has added meth decontamination information to just 24 individual Lims, comprising three addresses, since July 2014. Two properties were apartment blocks that included multiple tenancies.
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The total number of meth-contaminated properties is not known, but Housing NZ revealed recently that it spent $51.9 million on P testing, decontamination and remediation of its state house portfolio in 2016-17 financial year.
WCC spokeswoman Victoria Barton-Chapple pointed out it could "only add information to the Lim that it is aware of."
Auckland Council also added meth decontamination information to Lims, but relied on that detail being passed on to it.
"In some cases, property owners may not report actual or potential methamphetamine contamination to the council," regional environmental control manager Marcus Herrmann said.
"This may be for a variety of reasons, including uncertainty about remediation requirements ... or they believe the stigma attached to having the information on their property file will affect the value of their home."
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) chief executive Bindi Norwell said there was no consistency across councils, "making it difficult for potential purchasers to understand local requirements".
Strict disclosure obligations governed by the Real Estate Agents Act meant agents selling a property had to disclose whether it had meth contamination, she said.
"The difficulty is that some vendors may not disclose to the agent that the property has a history.
"Many agencies are now requiring vendors to disclose in writing, at the time of listing, whether a property has been exposed to meth or not. The information is then passed on to potential purchasers."
Insurance Council of New Zealand operations manager Terry Jordan was surprised by the low number of Wellington Lims reports being updated with meth decontamination detail.
"I think it's important that people know the history of the property they are buying and selling ... if a property is contaminated, then it does need to be recorded on a public database."
He believed there was little incentive for residential property owners to be upfront about whether remediation work had been carried out, even in cases where the health risk was low.
"Personally, I think there is a phobia about meth contamination. There is a fear of it. People don't understand it.
"The standard, I think, outlines some procedures for decontaminating properties. If that standard is followed, then that property was decontaminated, it will be perfectly safe to inhabit," Jordan said.
Almost all insurers have reviewed their policies over the past 12 months, with most of them continuing to cover meth-related claims with sub-limits.
"Effectively, they'll cover it up to a limit. That limit tends to be around $30,000, and one or two have raised their excesses to $2500 for meth claims.
"They're still providing cover, and that's good news," Jordan explained.