Methamphetamine has become a serious societal problem and sadly, there doesn't currently seem to be any end in the near future. The drug had been a popular choice back in the 1970s, but had been wiped off the streets. However, it reportedly made a comeback in the 1990s, according to Crystal Meth Addiction.1
Since this resurgence, the meth trend has been ongoing and, as a result, the domino effects of the drug's creation and use continue to plague society today in a big way. For the past several years, each month several news reports have been published that cite the various incidences associated with meth use, which include arrests, fires, and senseless injuries and deaths, to name a few problems Another increasingly growing problem in the U.S. and Canada are homeowners or renters discovering the houses they reside in were once former meth labs.
The chemicals produced by meth-making are considered hazardous materials and can lead to several problems with a building.
For houses that aren't destroyed, the contamination is severe and a routine cleaning will not rid the home of the residual chemicals left in the house. According to MSN Real Estate:
"Making or even smoking meth leaves behind a stew of chemicals that saturates walls, ceilings, floors and carpets with meth as well as mercury, lead, iodine, lithium and poisonous solvents." (original link no longer working, but same information is still online via Trulia) 2
Experts say for every pound of meth produced, approximately five or more pounds of hazardous waste is created, often dumped into the environment. Imagine that level of chemical waste being seeped into walls, ceilings carpets and even underneath floors on a routine basis?
The cleanup expense associated with meth contamination can run into tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the level of damage. After receiving a $90,000 estimate to decontaminate their home, one Washington State couple ended up demolishing it and building a new one (cost: $184,000) on the property.3
As this problem becomes more and more common, companies have emerged that specialize in cleaning and experts recommend having a home tested before buying. In the United States, depending on the state, the seller may or may not have to disclose whether or not the home was a meth house under the law. The same problem exists in Canada. According to the Canada Real Estate Investors Club:
"Homes are sold to unsuspected buyers in Canada without having an idea that the house they are purchasing was formally a meth lab." 4
Police reportedly bust thousands of meth labs per year in Canada.
Thousands of meth users across North America do not check if the house is contaminated before selling it. Unfortunately, these days the potential presence of meth is something home buyers have to consider.
Members of the above-mentioned Washington family were getting ill for seemingly no reason, and they were baffled as to why they were getting so sick with various sicknesses, including breathing-related problems and rashes. It wasn't until a neighbor casually mentioned the former occupant was involved with meth did the puzzle begin to come together. As mentioned above, they ended up tearing down their home to escape the ill-effects of dangerous meth residues.
And they aren't alone. A Utah family also became very ill shortly after moving into their home that was, unbeknownst to them at time of purchase, a former meth lab. 5 This caused the family several financial problems as well. These are older stories, but there are many similar stories reported over the past year.
At this time there are no standardized disclosure laws in regards to meth in the United States or Canada. It depends on the state or city. In the U.S., many states have created, or are in the process of constructing laws, but realistically there is no surefire way to tell if a home or apartment was previously a meth lab through the naked eye. In many cases it is up to the buyer to do the research before purchasing the house.
However, there are some red flags to consider which include:
- Foreclosures meth labs are often trashed and the owners look for a quick sell
- Houses are more commonly used as meth labs than apartments
- Homes that have a history of police visits may have been used as meth labs.
Other signs may include:
- Funky odors in the property which may smell like cat urine or chemicals scents
- Windows are blacked out or covered
- Visitors come and go on a routine basis
- High quantities of trash with large amounts of rubber gloves, dust masks, propane tanks and empty chemical bottles and cans.
Today it is recommended that before purchasing a house, potential buyers should to talk to neighbors, ask local police if there are any reports on the home, and call the local health department. Testing for the presence of meth residue is also recommended, tests can be bought for about $50 according to an Oct. 2014 KPRC - Houston report. Canada Real Estate Investors Club says in Canada the test is about $55 and if a positive result is found, a professional test can be purchased for about $600.
Additionally, in the United States, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) provides a website that shows homes that allegedly had been connected to meth and interested buyers can check the website (link under reference #7). However, it is up to users of the site to verify the information, the DEA states it has not independently verified the information as accurate. In many cities and states, disclosure by the seller is not required if the home has been associated with meth use or lab activity. Good real estate agents will probably help investigate if you ask, however, it is always a good idea to do your own homework. Many cities and states also do not require agents to research this information.
Home buyers should be aware of this serious issue. Meth use continues to harm society and, unfortunately, there are many residual problems resulting from use and production that affect innocent victims of this type of drug abuse. Destruction of property is just one of the many issues meth creates for society.