Meth is a new and major issue in residential property management this year. I don’t doubt that it’s been happening for years now – but the implications of contamination – and just how widespread the issue is in Auckland, and throughout NZ, is only now coming to light.
I am stunned by how many of my friends and clients have been affected by meth in their rental properties, and feel that we are only scratching the surface of this issue. Right in the middle of trying to sort out some meth testing for a friend I discovered that one of my own places is contaminated – something I was not expecting at all as I thought I had great tenants in place.
Having “P” manufactured in your rental was seen as a risk that a landlord had to take, and could be mitigated by vetting tenants and carrying out routine inspections. It was generally classified as “unlikely to occur” in your managed rental property. The scale of the operation was supposedly easy to detect through erratic behaviour, neighbours, water usage etc. Recently however manufacturing methods have changed, making it easier to carry out – it no longer requires large quantities of water for example. Because of this it should no longer be considered detectable by tenant type, behaviour and what shows up at inspections.
The big issue is the contamination caused by usage of meth rather than manufacture. If someone smokes meth inside your property it leaves behind a harmful residue that means your property is “contaminated”. As you can imagine the number of meth users significantly outweighs the number of producers, which means the likelihood your property is contaminated is much higher than first thought.
There are a number of issues and arguments floating around at the moment – they are excellently summarised on a recent episode of Fair Go. I have uploaded this episode to Youtube and I would highly recommend that you watch it below.
What I know so far:
- Ministry of Health guidelines suggest any contamination over .5 µg/100 cm2 makes your rental property uninhabitable.
- This level can be exceeded with your tenant simply smoking meth inside your property. A lab will exceed 20 µg/100 cm2.
- There will be no changes or government guidelines put in place for at least 6 months and most likely this will take up to 12 months. A select committee has been formed to develop standards covering the testing and remediation of properties contaminated by the manufacture or use of methamphetamine.
- If you do not have a baseline test that shows your property as being meth free then you have no way to recover the cost of any decontamination from a positive test. Thus we recommend meth testing at the end of your current tenancy.
- The Tenancy Tribunal can hold the landlord liable if a property is contaminated and it is rented to a tenant provided there is reasonable grounds to suspect it was unsafe.
- There is no clear evidence that .5mg is unsafe. The guidelines being used were put together for meth lab clean up. Which implies that the level was very high due to it being a lab, therefore the levels need to be completely removed in order for it to be safe. The majority of the issues are going to be around meth use, not manufacture.
- The MOH guidelines specify that companies that do the testing should not be involved in the decontamination process (the majority of them are offering testing and then clean-up – which in my opinion is a conflict of interest).
What Aspire Property Management is doing:
- We are updating our tenancy agreements to include the necessary clauses re meth going forward
- We HIGHLY recommend that we meth test your property at the end of your current tenancy (Aspire do not do the meth testing – we use NZDTA. They do not carry out decontamination works therefore there is no risk of a conflict of interest)
- We are currently gathering as much information about how the decontamination process works. At present the costs are high and the industry is unregulated. We feel a better understanding of this part of the process will allow us to add more value to our customers.
- We will continue to monitor this issue and we are hoping that some common sense will prevail in terms of what is and what isn’t contamination. Along with more transparency around what work really is required to decontaminate properties.Unfortunately the government timeline on offering help is well behind when a solution and guidance is actually needed.
I hope this information helps for now. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns about your Auckland rental property and meth contamination.
EDIT : 09/11/2016 – The Ministry of Health has released some new recommended levels. This is the first time there has been a formal distinction between a meth lab used for the manufacture of drugs and a property contaminated from smoking of meth. They allow for a reading of 1.5 or 2 depending on the property type. This in my opinion is a step in the right direction.
The recommended guidelines can be found here
For further reading on the topic, you may find the below articles useful.