One of the biggest problems we currently face is there are no standards for meth testing and remediation in New Zealand. In 2010, the Ministry of Health (MOH) released guidelines, which are used by councils to assess risk as to what constitutes a “safe” level of meth residue in a property.
But this is a guideline only and unfortunately has been known to be interpreted differently by different parties, including the Tenancy Tribunal.
Most people do not understand the difference between meth presence vs contamination vs toxicity, and this coupled with the fact that we currently only have one guideline level of contamination at 0.5µg per 100cm².
This has prompted a proliferation of private decontamination companies popping up over recent times with many seen as “experts in meth decontamination”, causing some level of paranoia within the real estate market and media. Not all Property Managers are the same and this analogy is also true when dealing with meth decontamination companies.
A few pointers to consider:
- Beware – Some operators only screen for meth and exclude other related compounds
- Some operators only collect a composite sample, whereby multiple samples are combined with the result being the combined average
- Conflict of Interest – some operators employ third parties to conduct testing and also undertake remediation work themselves
- Be wary of self testing kits. Ensure that samples are tested in an accredited independent laboratory
Recently The Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR) has undertaken research and issued their recommendations to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH has recommended that the standard for meth contamination levels that prompt a house clean-up should be four times as high in many cases.
Since 2010, MOH guidelines have said a contamination reading of 0.5µg per 100cm² or higher meant a house needed to be decontaminated.
The new recommendations developed by ESR say that level should only apply to houses that have been used as meth labs, not ones where meth was only smoked. It says that the threshold should be four times higher or 2.0µg per 100cm², at houses where meth has been smoked but not made, as long as the carpets have been removed.
At houses where the carpet hasn’t been removed, it should still be three times higher, at 1.5µg per 100cm², because of the increase risk to children who spend time on the floor. The MOH believe that homes below these levels were safe to occupy.
We await the release of these standards for public consultation hopefully later this year.
Figures released by a meth-testing company have laid bare the scourge of meth contamination in New Zealand rental homes. Data collected by MethSolutions showed that of 8845 homes it had checked for meth contamination in the past four years, 40 per cent had tested positive.
That rate was seen across Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Northland and Waikato – and even higher in Coromandel, where 49 per cent of homes visited tested positive.
Should I Meth test my rental property?
My position on meth testing is that it is best practice to both have a comprehensive landlord insurance policy that covers for all meth related contamination and to actively “meth-manage” your rental property. Deterrence is as important as detection!
There is currently no obligation for landlords to test their property, however if tested and the results indicate a presence of contamination at levels that exceed or are likely to exceed acceptable guidelines the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 stipulates that you must decontaminate the house before it is re-tenanted.
You are not obliged to disclosing its history regarding contamination to prospective tenants unless specifically asked. That being said, Landlords who choose to remain ignorant to the fact may find themselves seriously on the back foot.
Meth contamination can have a devastating impact on your finances. As a landlord, you could face the prospect of a prolonged period without rental income and a large repair bill on-top. The cost associated with undertaking a test is negligible compared to the costs of remediation, or potential costs of being held accountable for a contaminated property, let alone the health effects associated with exposure – it makes sense to test first.
You also may not be covered (or only partially covered) by your insurance policy depending on the circumstances.
In my experience, a clear commitment around screening, especially proactively – can be a strong deterrent to those considering using the rental for illegal actives to choose a “softer” target.
Porter Property Management