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13 October 2017

Meth Contamination - Buyer Beware!

Methamphetamine-contaminated houses are a growing issue in New Zealand. Ensure you are aware of the risks when purchasing a home.

As the problem in New Zealand continues to rise, prospective purchasers need to be aware of the risks of methamphetamine contamination when buying a property. Being well informed could help avoid making a costly mistake.

Also known as “meth”, “P” or “ice”, methamphetamine is a stimulant Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Manufacturing methamphetamine involves the release of highly corrosive and dangerous chemicals.

During manufacturing, highly poisonous chemicals are absorbed into soft furnishings such as carpets and curtains, as well as ceilings and other structural features. This contamination poses serious implications for health and wellbeing, making the property unsafe for occupation.

Once absorbed, the only way to remove methamphetamine contamination is to strip the property of any materials which have been affected. Damage may be limited to one or two rooms of the house in which case stripping of the walls and furnishings in those areas may be a sufficient remedy, however, in severe cases, demolition of the property may be the only option.

Depending on the extent of the contamination, remediation could be very costly and is often not covered by your insurer.

How can I tell if a house has been affected by Methamphetamine?

Contamination is rarely visible in properties and may be masked by recent renovations making the property look presentable for sale, however some things you can do are:

  1. Get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM). If a property has been tested and identified as having past contamination, this will be registered on the LIM;
  2. Assess the property for indicators such as:
    1. Strong solvent smells permeating the property;
    2. Unusual or DIY ventilation, drainage or wiring;
    3. Covered windows;
    4. Dead vegetation or soil disturbances;
    5. Staining of concrete around the outside drains;
    6. Unusual staining on furnishings, benches or ceilings; or
    7. Excessive security measures.
  3. Check the history of the property, statistically the chances of contamination are higher in rental properties; and
  4. Talk to the neighbours and see if they noticed any suspicious behaviours from the past tenants such as people coming and going at unusual hours or frequent police visits.

What can I do when purchasing a property?

We strongly recommend that when you are purchasing a property, the offer is subject to you obtaining a satisfactory methamphetamine test.  Testing is performed by a specialist methamphetamine testing company who will require full access to the property. They will undertake testing and compare the results with the New Zealand Guidelines. You will be provided with a report which will include the results of the testing and details of the test sites. There are many companies in New Zealand who offer methamphetamine testing and the services offered by these companies differ.

If you require advice on methamphetamine testing prior to entering into an agreement, or assistance with any other conveyancing matters, our Property Team at Saunders Robinson Brown are well informed of the risks involved with methamphetamine and are happy to discuss this with your further. As always, involving your lawyer at an early stage is recommended.

The above information is of a general nature only. You should contact our firm for advice relating to your specific circumstance.

Chris Boivin

About Chris Boivin

Chris is a Partner advising clients on a wide range of matters. He assists with both commercial, rural and residential property matters, as well as business transactions and asset planning.

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Victoria Agnew

About Victoria Agnew

Victoria joined Saunders Robinson Brown in 2017. She provides legal support to our Trusts & Estates team.

View all posts by Victoria Agnew