Home-based methamphetamine labs are found in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout North America, and are increasingly turning up in homes for sale. Site contamination resulting from the presence of a current or former meth lab may pose a serious health threat to people living in and around these properties. Potential health problems include respiratory illness, headaches, dizziness, and skin and eye irritation. Therefore, it is important for prospective property owners to learn about any possible hazards that may exist due to a former meth lab on the site and to determine next steps if signs of contamination are detected.

Disclosure requirements for meth properties vary by state, so agents need to make themselves aware of the laws that apply in their area. In some states, no such disclosures are required, so agents and buyers are at great risk of being in the dark about a property’s true condition.  

How can one determine if a property formerly housed a meth lab?

Many communities do not have systems in place to track properties that were used as meth labs. However, doing a bit of detective work may help to uncover such circumstances. Contact local law enforcement agencies to determine if a seizure of chemicals and lab equipment was made on the premises and if any hazardous materials removal was done. In addition, the local fire department, county health department, or former owners may have information about the property’s history.

Where and how would possible contamination be detected in a home?

A professional home inspector can look for evidence of a former meth lab during the course of the inspection, but there is no conclusive method of determination from a visual inspection. There may be a cat urine odor, evidence of discarded packaging, materials, and equipment, or signs of stains from spillage on counter tops, floors, etc. Contaminants may be found in carpeting, on surfaces such as walls and sinks, and even in drains and ventilation systems, but these can only be identified by professional sample collection and laboratory analysis. Where visual clues indicate the possibility of previous lab use, the home inspector will include this information in the inspection report so that the prospective owner can decide on next steps, which may include scientific testing and professional remediation.

Having a property professionally tested specifically for meth contamination is the only way to determine if it is in fact contaminated. Professional remediation should always be followed by post-testing to ensure that the decontamination is complete. In some areas, the property owner must have the cleanup results certified before the home can be approved for occupancy, though not necessarily in order to sell the home. 

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at info@kijner.com

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Source: 26th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (February 15th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection