Brendon Stuckey from Quinovic West Auckland Property Management presents practical strategies for landlords for managing the risk of methamphetamine in rental properties.
Methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘P’) has been a well-documented social issue in New Zealand for many years now. While recent crackdowns by the Police and Ministry of Justice have resulted in a decline in meth-related offences, many landlords are still bearing the consequences of the problem.
The use and manufacture of methamphetamine inside buildings leaves chemical residue which can be hazardous to future occupants. Most landlords are highly aware of the risk of methamphetamine contamination to their investment.
Partly responsible for this high level of awareness is the increasing availability of low-cost testing methods, coupled with a large number of houses changing hands over recent years (many buyers are now including a ‘P’ test in their pre-purchase inspection). Anyone with an exposure to the real estate industry will have heard stories of homes that failed to sell because of contamination, or required decontamination costing of tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are a landlord, and you’re concerned about the risk of methamphetamine contamination to your investment property, here is some useful information to help you manage your risk.
Understanding The Likelihood And Levels Of Contamination
The level of contamination varies significantly between a house where someone has smoked meth and one that has been used for the manufacture of meth. It is important to understand that:
- While it is very common for properties to test positive for methamphetamine residue (about 40% of properties tested will), the vast majority of test results will fall under the threshold published in the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines (MOHG) for contamination.
- Historically, meth contamination has been more prevalent in rental properties, but it is not biased towards any socio-economic group.
- Regular cleaning and re-painting may reduce low-level contamination, but is unlikely to eliminate the problem. These methods have proven to be ineffective at dealing with high level contaminations.
There are a variety of testing methods available, at a range of costs. Be aware that some methods are more reliable than others. Options include:
- Meth Minder: This is a device that can be installed in a property, which ‘looks’ for the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. The device continuously monitors the air quality and covertly communicates both daily and immediately in an alarm event.
- DIY Instant Colour Test Kit: The kit will give a “yes or no” result but does not indicate the level of contamination. The accuracy of these kits is questionable – there are instances where these have been used and problematic levels of meth residues have been missed. For this reason we personally do not recommend using DIY kits.
- Lab-Tested Swab Samples: Swab samples are taken from the property and sent away for testing by a NZ Accredited Laboratory to give an indicative result of the property. This result can then be compared with the Ministry of Health Guidelines. This is our preferred method of testing and we offer our clients a composite 8 swab test, suitable for a three-bedroom property, from $110+GST.
- Full Lab Testing: A full detailed forensic testing service will give conclusive contamination levels throughout specific areas of the property. It comes at a high cost, but is necessary if an initial indicative swab test indicates a problem level of contamination. Full lab testing is also necessary to support remediation when decontaminating a property.
Managing Methamphetamine Risk In Your Investment Property
The most effective way to reduce the risk of meth contamination to your investment is to manage tenants proactively, using industry best practice methods. These include:
- Appointing a diligent property manager with the experience and training to identify high risk properties and individuals.
- Undertaking a thorough vetting and checking of tenants before they move in.
- Developing an understanding of the behaviours of people that use meth and associate with meth users.
- Completing thorough and regular property inspections, with awareness of items and products associated with meth.
- Testing your property to establish a benchmark and re-testing between tenancies if you have any suspicions. The best time to do this is as part of the due diligence on a property before you purchase it.
At Quinovic West Auckland we have not had a meth crisis at any of the properties under our management; however we regularly come into contact with property owners that have faced this issue. To protect our clients’ investments, we continually upskill, resource and improve our awareness of the issues relating to meth contamination.
Brendon Stuckey, Principal at Quinovic Property Management West Auckland, has more than a decade of combined property management and property investment experience. If you are interested in discussing how best to manage methamphetamine risk to your property, or any other aspects of property management, please contact Brendon and the Quinovic team on (09) 837-6000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.