Press Release - Common sense approach needed to tackle P-epidemic

01-Sep-2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Common sense approach needed to tackle P-epidemic

Auckland, New Zealand - 1 September 2016 -Landlords fed-up with the mounting costs of the P-epidemic in Auckland want to develop DIY meth testing kit aimed at saving them and their tenants thousands of dollars in costs every year.

The Auckland Property Investors Association is also calling on Ministry of Health to review what it deems as hazardous contamination of a property, asking it to revise its levels from 0.5 to 1.2 on the advice of a senior environmental chemist.

The association’s moves come amid a mounting pile of bills being passed on by meth testing companies that are expensive and produce wildly varying and sometime inaccurate results – forcing delays in re-letting properties or in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary refurbishment.

Landlords are told they need to test each tenanted property for ‘P’ both at the start of each tenancy and at the conclusion. To get this testing carried out by a contractor will cost the landlord around $230 just for one screening test, that’s $460 from the start to finish for just one tenancy. If a level of contamination is detected at this stage, a more detailed test will then need to be carried out which will cost somewhere in the range of $3,000 - $10,000.

Meanwhile, anyone apart from a landlord, can be a certified tester. There is no entry level requirement to be a tester and this, says the association, has led to a market that grossly inflates testing costs.

“If anyone can be a tester than why can’t landlords so long as we are appropriately trained?,” says association vice-president Peter Lewis.

“We agree that testing has to be regulated and standardised but why do we need to pay for something we can do ourselves?”

Mr Lewis says he would like the Tenancy Tribunal to agree to allow either the landlord or a property manager to use a self-test kit and for results to be accepted as evidence if a hearing were to occur.

“We’re simply looking for a common sense outcome for a social problem. The way it stands now, everyone is hurting.”

Mr Lewis also says the hazardous contamination level needs to be set to a realistic level. 0.5 is, by many accounts, far too low.

Dr Nick Kim, Senior Lecturer in Applied Environmental Chemistry at Massey University, has stated “properties where methamphetamine residues are less than 12 μg/100 cm2 should really not be referred to as ‘contaminated’ by methamphetamine.

Dr Kim says residue is a very low health risk and people are misinterpreting Ministry of Health guidelines on cleaning up houses where the drug, known as P, has been used.

He said the traces found in houses where people had been smoking meth - rather than manufacturing it - were "way below any poisonous level".

There may be little to no health risk from living in such a house and current guidelines were being misapplied, Dr Kim said. Once traces of meth are detected, he said, people tend to panic and spend thousands on clean-ups, even to the extent of quarantining a property.

But Dr Kim said toxicology calculations he had done found the "first point that you might plausibly

get a risk... is about 25 times above the guideline value". He said in many cases people were probably wasting money on cleaning up meth residue on floors and walls.

Mr Lewis – also a board member of the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation – says despite all the recent media coverage of the ‘P’ contamination problem, little has been heard from those people who are most affected – property owners and, especially, residential landlords.

“Most landlords want to provide properties that are safe and secure for their tenants but are naturally also concerned about the financial impact of such contamination on their landlording business.

“From the landlord’s point of view, this is not the end of the financial impact. Time is money. This testing, and the subsequent delay waiting to receive the results will mean more vacancy days before the property can be relet. Each day the property is empty costs the landlord money. There is no reduction in the costs of rates, insurance or mortgage interest just because the property is sitting there unoccupied.

“Should the contamination be assessed as above benchmark levels then, remedial action must be taken. The landlord cannot rent out a property that is contaminated. If they do so they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 as well as in other legislation such as the Building Act and the Health Act.

“We are told that, at least for now, our insurance will cover the cost of the clean-up. Even if this is so, the landlord is still out of pocket for the insurance excess (normally some hundreds of dollars) and possibly further loss of rent while the work is being done. It is also likely that insurance companies will soon move to minimize their liability in this area by restricting cover, raising premiums, or both.”

Mr Lewis points out that while methamphetamine contamination has become a big issue around the renting and purchase of real estate, there has been little discussion or panic about second-hand vehicles, furniture, clothing, or anything else that may have spent time in or around a contaminated property.

“Given the hysteria around the health risks involved with contaminated properties, that does seem very strange.

“As far as the residential property rental business goes, these costs must end up somewhere. The tenant’s advocates will say “That’s the landlords’ cost of doing business. They need to wear those costs”.

“Unfortunately, as in any business, any increase in the cost of supplying the product or service to the customer will eventually lead to an increase in the selling price (in this case, rent), a reduction in supply as the highest-cost suppliers exit the market or a combination of both.”

Unluckily for landlord Andrew Bruce, one of his properties recently returned a positive P-contamination test result. He will be hosting a Webinar on the subject next Thrusday, 8 September. More details at www.apia.org.nz

As Andrew prepared the property for sale, a $253 test showed contamination to be at double the acceptable limit. To remediate the house we were told it would be at least $10,000. Because of the reading, soft furnishings, curtains, carpet, couches, would have to be thrown away. If the kitchen joinery was made from MDF this would also have to be removed as this absorbs any contaminate. The place would need to be fully cleaned down with a special chemical imported from the States, the list just went on. Tenants were given notice and left. Turns out the company that did the testing made an error and applied a limit of 0.05 instead of 0.5. No explanation was given by the testing company.


 


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