Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Methamphetamine & Meth Cleaning / Decontamination
The total cost to have a property / vehicle capable of occupation in accordance with NZS 8510 will depend on a variety of factors.
Total cost will first depend on whether you have undertaken the initial testing (as this can cost up to $2,500 + GST for a 3 bedroom home). After receiving the detailed testing results, then we are able to quote for the decontamination. For a three bedroom house, with an average contamination level (around 5.0µg), the quote can range from $10-$18,000 + GST.
Factors affecting the quoted amount will be the amount of contaminated contents that need to be removed and whether there are surfaces that require extra treatment. Whether there are areas of high contamination (or showing evidence of heavy metals & solvents associated with manufacturing), then more invasive & extensive treatment work will be required and the quote will accordingly increase due to the extra labour element.
Whether there are extra services required after the meth clean such as redecoration & carpet installation will come into the broader cost as well. Also factor in lost rent in a landlord situation, so the insurance question below becomes relevant.
If you are a landlord / property manager and you have had your regular 3-monthly checks (or whichever checks are required by your policy) you should be covered.
It is highly recommended that you undertake lab-based baseline testing prior to your tenancy and have the results disclosed to the tenant prior. Proactive management is the key to decreasing your risk to contamination.
It may be worth asking your broker to check whether insurance cover has changed because a number of insurers are amending the particulars of the cover, applicable exclusions and the cap & excess payable for successful claims (e.g. $2,500.00 excess and $30,000.00 cap on cover).
Unfortunately methamphetamine is a resilient molecule which can bleed back through paint & primer pores overtime. There are certain lead based paints which can be used to encapsulate structural items if they are incapable of cleaning.
If the property has been used for methamphetamine manufacturing / lab activity, the chemicals used are highly toxic & explosive and can permeate a range of surfaces.
There are 2 different strata of contamination-level testing touted by the recent standards (NZS 8510). Screening is to assess the presence of contamination and following confirmation of contamination, detailed testing is to assess the room by room and surface by surface levels of contamination. Regardless you should receive a written report including your IANZ lab certified (Analytica, Hills, Labtec e.t.c) results which you can reasonably rely on (check the T&C’s and exclusions).
For screening, you can either use vetted in-field screening technology (such as a presumptive cassette test) or a lab-based screen. Lab-based screens are more reliable as an indicator than the in-field screening technology currently (principally because there aren’t any controls in place for vetting the technology). A lab based screen will either be a field composite or a lab composite.
A field composite is one swipe taken over multiple surfaces, which will give you a cumulative total (e.g. 15.3µg/100cm2 over 10 surfaces gives a theoretical maximum of 15.3µg/100cm2 on any one surface presuming the rest are clear, or 1.53µg/100cm2 on average).
Alternatively, a lab composite is a composite of multiple samples taken over different surfaces, whereby the lab extracts a piece of each sample and takes the average of all totals. This method provides a more accurate representation (e.g. average of 1.45µg/100cm2 across the board). As an added benefit, the original samples are retained for the purposes of detailed testing. This will decrease the overall cost in the event that detailed testing is required. Lab composites are slightly more expensive but the cost is justified in the event that the result is positive.
Detailed testing is a requirement for the purposes of a professional meth clean / decontamination if the screening indication is positive. This will tell the room by room & surface based contamination levels so that a decontamination contractor can rely on the levels for putting together a quote. These are also the levels that the reasonable observer will use to judge the effectiveness of the decontamination that was carried out.
The suitability of the testing types will depend on the circumstances. We are only able to quote when provided with a detailed report. We do not undertake our own testing for conflict purposes (don’t trust any company that does!), but we do scrutinise testing results when we get them in so if you are confused, please get in touch.
A landlord is responsible to provide a property that is suitable for occupation. Otherwise the provision of tenancy will be in contravention of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Notably there is a bill in parliament in process at the moment which will provide more enforcement of the liveability standards in relation to contamination and insulation in houses in an effort to promote healthy homes. This means that landlord will be under more scrutiny when on the wrong side of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. the provision of a house with methamphetamine contamination is an unlawful act.
Additionally, a tenant who is living in a contaminated property will potentially have recourse against a landlord for replacement of contents if they are contaminated. Thus, a very important resource in a hypothetical Tenancy Tribunal battle is a legitimate test taken at the outset of a tenancy (and the disclosure of which to the tenant).
There is a crucial element in property law known as “caveat emptor” or buy beware. Essentially this means that the burden of a property’s condition passes with title without recourse (notwithstanding the ALDS common warranties relating to fitness). Fortunately for vendors, if a house is contaminated, an agent is compelled to disclose it as a defect. Note that if you are buying a house “As Is, Where Is” or via mortgagee sale, the contractual obligation is more dubious and it is recommended to get your own testing done for peace of mind.
If there is a positive result disclosed to you (or unearthed through the use of a building inspection / meth test / finance condition), then you have the option quantifying the potential loss in reinstating the property to safe levels to finalise a deal or pulling out. There may be a negative impact on value relating to stigma, however a fully remediated property should be capable of obtaining insurance and capable of use for security purposes.
We can assist with providing an estimate to clean the property in a transaction if needed for insurance / finance purposes as we have extensive experience in property transactions. You should be able to receive a clearance certificate from the vendor including the pre-results, post-decontamination report and post-results if it has been cleaned and is being sold with all the regular purchaser warranties.
On the flip side, if you are looking to sell a property that unearths contamination issues, you have a few different options.
You can reinstate the property and then look to sell it on the basis that it is remediated. The provision of a current insurance certificate & clear testing results & decon report should be sufficient ammunition for any purchaser queries should they arise. Maybe check your disclosure obligations with your lawyer / agent (especially if the purchaser doesn’t raise any queries) because it may dubious as to whether the property has a defect.
You can also take your insurance payout and sell as is, where is. This may be a more attractive option if you cannot be bothered with the admin involved in the remediation and want to be rid of the contamination issues. It is worth seeking advice on this point as there may be marketability advantages of assigning the benefit of the insurance claim as well. Ask your lawyer / agent if they have any recommendations if this becomes an issue.
There is a multitude of health risks, most of these will be exacerbated for vulnerable persons such as elderly and young children. These range from headaches, dizziness, skin irritation, allergy type symptoms, respiratory problems, excessive and unexplained nose bleeds, behavioural and neurological disorders in children and even birth defects.
The risks associated with methamphetamine manufacturing / lab activity are much higher. See this article for more information or contact the Ministry of Health if you have any further queries.