August 29 2016
Before you answer, consider the fact that every day more Kiwis find out they have been living in methamphetamine (P)-contaminated properties. Why should you care? If you have purchased a contaminated property, the consequences can be financially, mentally and physically devastating for you and your family. If you’re buying a home, speak to our property lawyers and avoid the P-roblem before it’s too late.
A contaminated property has very real dangers
To protect your interests, when purchasing a property, you’re usually advised to obtain a builder’s report, Land Information Memorandum (LIM), finance and insurance on the agreement’s standard conditions. Our property lawyers advise the inclusion of P-testing if you’re buying a property that has been previously occupied.
Since 2002 the use of P has skyrocketed and it’s unwise to presume that properties in well-respected areas are safe. P-users come from many different walks of life.
Properties where P has been produced or regularly used are exposed to numerous chemicals which are absorbed by different surfaces and structural features. The health risks associated with living in a contaminated property should not be taken lightly. Inhaling chemicals such as concentrated acid, mercury and lead can cause cancer, kidney failure, neurological damage and birth defects for unborn children. P-contamination within properties is rarely visible and it can cost huge sums to decontaminate.
How to avoid the risk of buying a contaminated home
There are now many companies that specialize in P-testing for residential properties. You’ll be able to find one in your area by searching Google. Testers visit the property and take samples from non-porous surfaces, such as bench tops and metal structures. If the property tests positive over a certain threshold, they will recommend you decontaminate it if you’re interested in going ahead with the purchase.
Test prices range from about $150 to $700 depending on the size of the property and its location. This fee seems a good investment when you compare it with a potential decontamination bill of up to $20,000.
In certain situations, some properties are past the point of decontamination and require demolishing. It’s important to note that decontamination cannot be done yourself; a professional must be contracted to carry out the work correctly. Specific guidelines for contamination are currently being developed. Some local authorities now note on the LIM that a property has received a positive test for the drug until it has been decontaminated. This is likely to seriously devalue your property.
P-testing is also sensible if you’re selling your property. The standard agreement states you (the vendor) have no knowledge of notices from any local authority, tenant or any other party concerning any requests to remedy any issues. If at any stage you’re made aware of contamination, you would be obliged to inform any prospective purchaser, otherwise there could be a significant loss of value to your property.
Investment properties aren’t safe either
If you own, or are thinking or buying an investment property, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure your tenants are safe from possible P-contamination.
As a landlord you have legal obligations to your tenants. Any landlord who lets a contaminated property is in breach of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, the Building Act 2004 and the Health Act 1956 and can face severe consequences. A handful of cases concerning P-contaminated rentals have occurred over the years. One recent case concerned a family that rented a contaminated home in Tuakau . The Tenancy Tribunal ordered that the landlord refund rent payments to the family and also reimburse them for the costs incurred with dumping their contaminated personal belongings. As a result of this case, landlords now have an obligation to test for P before letting any property.
Purchasing a property is a long-term investment and you shouldn’t cut corners. If you don’t test for P you are potentially risking the health of your loved ones along with a possible decontamination fee of up to $20,000.