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What to do when you suspect a meth-lab contamination?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meth lab contamination

In this week's Ask An Expert feature, Craeg Williams gives you a step-by-step response guide to any meth contamination suspicion.  

APIA Ask An Expert

Two tenants who occupied a property of my recently had an acrimonious break up which resulted in one tenant moving out of the premises.  The remaining tenant has given me enough information to strongly suspect the departed tenant to be a meth user.  At this stage I don’t believe the property was used for P-manufacture but it may had been used for consumption.  Is it necessary for me to carry out any tests or alert any authorities at this stage?  What should I do to confirm my suspicions? 

APIA Ask An Expert

1. Do not alert the authorities until you fully understand the level of contamination as this could result in it being put on the property LIM;
2. Understand that having one tenant vacating the property makes no difference to how to deal with the problem; 
3. Get the property tested by a reputable company.  This part is crucial to get right, there are rogues in this industry, you can visit their Facebook pages to see what people say about them before getting the testing done. Once you have the test results you can proceed;
4. If the test results are above 0.5 micrograms then the place will need to be professionally cleaned by a company that specialises in meth cleanups.  We can recommend companies that we know are good to work with here; 
5. If the amount is below 0.5 micrograms then it does not legally require professional cleaning, however you can still do so if you wish to; 
6. The costs of the cleanup can be passed on to the tenant if you can prove it to the Tribunal.  This will come down to the quality of evidence you provided.  Consider obtaining a testimony from the remaining tenant, though this will not necessary guarantee an order to your favour, it is a starting point.  Be mindful that in theory you could make the other tenant liable for the cleanup costs so it may not be his/her best interest to provide that testimony in the first place.  Communication skills and prudent negotiation are key to resolve this impasse, consider obtaining the testimony in exchange of a waiver of liability.  

It is also important to note that all of the above depends on whether there was a joint and several liability clause present in the tenancy agreement. If there is not, then you can only make each tenant liable for half of the total debt, rather than one tenant liable for the whole total.

Craeg Williams
Craeg is a director of Tenancy Practice Service, a tenancy consulting firm which advises major property management brands.  Craeg and his team are also involved in providing support for private landlords by way of training seminars, best practice protocols, drafting applications, advice about re-hearing and appeals, tenancy debt collection as well as human rights and privacy issues.  

Do you have any property related questions for our panel of experts?  Comment below or email us at questions@apia.org.nz.  

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