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What do landlords need to know?

In New Zealand, methamphetamine use and production is an unfortunate reality that is not going away any time soon. Damage caused through the use and production of this drug can lead to serious issues for the health of those in an affected property, as well as financial implications for owners in terms of remediation and clean-up.

With availability at an all-time high and price at an all-time low, the issue of Methamphetamine and how it affects properties, landlords, and tenants is not going away.

What is it and why should I be concerned?

Methamphetamine is a toxic and addictive drug. Effects of its use can include mood swings, paranoia, aggression, anxiety and insomnia, and extended periods of exposure can lead to chronic health effects including liver, kidney and brain damage, cancers, and birth defects. Health, careers and families can be destroyed, and we are now seeing the financial consequences meth has on individuals who have absolutely no direct contact with the drug – unsuspecting landlords and tenants.

Rental properties can become contaminated through recreational use or through manufacture on site, and contamination levels will vary depending on the situation, but can lead to dangerous physical side effects for those in the property, as well as having the potential to cost an investor tens of thousands of dollars in decontamination, testing, cleanup and any lost rent associated with the property being declared ‘uninhabitable’. If police become involved due to a tenant’s use or manufacturing of the drug, they are obligated to report your property’s contamination to the local council authorities which can result in a permanent public record, on your property’s LIM – potentially damaging the resale value of your investments.

Common indicators of meth production can include:

  • Windows blacked out/covered or obscured from view
  • Chemical odours (solvents mainly)
  • Empty chemical containers lying around outside
  • Exhaust fans
  • Paranoid, secretive, or odd behaviour from occupants
  • Access denied to landlords, neighbours and agents
  • Frequent visitors at odd hours
  • Occupants may be unemployed however they possess nice cars and expensive toys
  • Expensive security and surveillance equipment
  • Occupants of the residence constantly going outside to smoke
  • Yellow or brown discolouration on walls, drains, sinks and showers
  • Smoke alarms that are removed or taped off
  • Jars containing clear liquid with a red or white solid on the bottom
  • Jars containing iodine or dark shiny metallic balls inside jars
  • Jars containing red phosphorus or a fine dark red or purple powder
  • Coffee filters containing a white pasty substance
  • A dark red sludge or small amounts of shiny white crystals

Landlords who end up owning a meth-contaminated property could face losses in several areas. Which is why our property managers are provided with a comprehensive Methamphetamine risk mitigation policy aimed at educating all staff on how to recognise and deal with any such activity should it ever occur in one of our managed properties. We provide staff with a full suite of appropriate clauses and acknowledgements for Tenancy Agreements that ensure incoming tenants are aware this issue is something we can and will be checking for, and clauses that allow us to do so.

We also provide staff with the 24-hour support of tenancy law specialists to help advise and guide our clients through these situations to ensure the right steps are undertaken should contamination be found.

As professional property managers, we have a responsibility to understand the issue of methamphetamine and pass on this knowledge to our landlords and tenants. We keep up-to-date with all the latest industry regulations and standards, updates from the Tenancy Tribunal and are trained to know what signs to look for during an inspection.

Do I legally have to test for meth?

While there is currently no law stating meth testing is a requirement for landlords, if a landlord rents out a property that is contaminated, they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (to provide a clean property to incoming tenants) as well as responsibilities under other legislation such as the Building Act and Health Act to ensure the safety of those who inhabit their investment property. Testing is required to ensure liability and financial repercussions of any possible contamination can be placed back to those who caused it. A lack of a negative test at the beginning of a tenancy can also leave landlords open to legal challenges from tenants if a later test comes back positive during the time of their tenancy, even if the current tenants themselves were the ones to cause the contamination.

Talk to us for information on our experience, services, and knowledge – after all, investment properties should make money for you, not work.