Press Release - Landlords call for end to cowboy meth testers





Auckland, New Zealand - 24th May 2017 - New Zealand’s biggest group of residential landlords has heralded proposed new meth testing standards as a breakthrough that will stop their members from being held at ransom by cowboy testers.

The Auckland Property Investors Association - New Zealand’s largest independent investor group - while supporting the September changes to tenancy legislation that would set an industry standard for contamination threshold is also supporting calls to regulate the testing industry.

APIA vice president Peter Lewis says members are continuously complaining about being given wildly inaccurate test readings for meth contamination and as a result, being asked to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars on possibly unnecessary decontamination work.

Landlords do not currently have the expertise nor authority to test and decontaminate their own properties and must use so-called industry “professionals”.

“The testing and decontamination industry is quite unregulated,” he says. “Added to this, the training threshold for operators entering into the market is nonexistence, and there is no commonly available benchmark for landlords to tell a good operator from a bad. There is a general sense that rogue operators are amongst us and that they are profiting off people’s fear and lack of knowledge. My point is, if these people hold themselves out to be experts in meth testing then there should at least be a mandatory competency standard to their work.”

He highlighted a case where a testing company had grossly exaggerated the reading by moving the decimal point in the results that they provided to the property owner.

“What was actually low-level contamination which could have been caused by a user entering a property, read like it was the home of a 3-hatted meth cook,” says Mr. Lewis. “It appeared that the whole property would have to be gutted, but then the second test by a different company showed the decimal point had been moved and that the contamination was quite minor.”

Mr. Lewis says often testing, and clean-up companies are connected and therefore have a vested interest in making sure the reading is above the minimum level of toxicity. In other instances, testing companies have asked landlords for their preferred outcomes before carrying out the test.

“Neither situation is acceptable for landlord nor tenant,” he says. “We absolutely need to introduce testing standards and clearly delineate contamination from toxicity - the former describes a presence of meth that could be acceptable while the latter points to an unacceptable presence of meth.”

Mr. Lewis says decontamination companies also do not offer any warranty and then charge landlords for second and even third clean-ups even though the first clean-up was incomplete or defective.

“Then they hide behind proprietary rights and refuse to be transparent as to their testing methodologies.”

Mr Lewis says APIA lacks confidence in meth testing industry as a whole – a viewed echoed by the Drug Foundation -- and will continue to push for a system under which those landlords who choose to do so can be trained to test for meth contamination at their own rental properties for the health and safety of their tenants.

“Landlords and tenants are the ultimate losers as long as the testing and decontamination industry remains unregulated.”

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said the proposed legislation recognised meth contamination had become a significant problem that needed clearer direction.

"Right now there's huge uncertainty, for Housing New Zealand and in the 400,000 homes that are tenanted, about what is the safe level.

"That's why the development of those standards is important... This bill is important in the sense of giving those standards legal status."

But Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said there was no point in giving new testing guidelines legal status, if the training of those people carrying out the tests were not regulated.

"We have an industry playing on people's fear, on hysteria around methamphetamine.

"This industry should have to meet certain standards, and those standards should be set by the government," he said.

"There needs to be much better training around how the tests are done, what tests are used, what lab does the analysis and how those results are read."

Mr. Bell also had reservations about the science being used to develop the guidelines.

"New Zealand seems to be the only country that's going down this route."

Dr. Smith was confident the standards would be robust.

"I'm satisfied that Standards New Zealand and the expert team is pulling out all stops to get that work finished as quickly as possible," he said.

It was important that both the way the tests were done, as well as the thresholds for determining whether a house was safe or not, were based on "the very best science," Dr. Smith said.






Sandra Roberts

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