Meth/Drug Labs and their aftermath for Landlords, Real Estate Agents, Insurers and Restorers
What is this drug?
An amine derivative of amphetamine, C10H15N, used in the form of its crystalline hydrochloride as a central nervous
system stimulant, both medically and illicitly.
Introduction – What type of Rental Properties are affected?
In Australia, it is accepted that the easiest way to set up and meth or drug lab is by way of renting a property where the agent or owner may be completely unaware of the activities undertaken by criminals provided the renter is paying on time with little disturbance to the neighbours. These people are skilled at taking a low profile to ensure Police and other authorities remain unaware of their illicit activities.
In fact, many cities from Brisbane to Perth are seeing a rise in the production of the mainstream drug called methamphetamine, or meth. Meth is an addictive drug that is sold on the street that can be created or “cooked” in makeshift laboratories; these can be set up temporarily and moved easily.
This is evident in many Real Estate rental properties today and it is a growing trend.
The reason for this is that Meth is relatively inexpensive and easy to make, so it is a common activity for those looking to make some fast money. The criminal base that manufactures this drug, like many drugs of addiction are resourceful and expedient.
Meth labs have been discovered in any city, large or small. They are in suburbs you may least suspect or in homes that may have little evidence of this type of activity. It is crucial for their success. Whilst we at FRA speak specifically about Meth, it should be noted that there are many illicit drugs that are produced within homes that are sold on the street which require clean-up should they cause damage through explosions of the various chemicals required to make these.
What do we as Restorers see when we attend the aftermath of a Meth Lab explosion?
The most significant impact from a meth lab in a rental property is the contamination of the unit where the drugs are manufactured. Even people who live in a home where a meth lab has been operating previously often suffer from a range of health issues of which they may be completely unaware of.
From inhalation to absorption through the skin, the toxins from meth production can cause problems, even from short-term exposure.
Common ailments include headaches, nausea, fatigue, respiratory issues like coughing, chest pain, skin burns, kidney damage, cancer and even death. A meth lab in a rental property can be a landlord’s worst nightmare—from the illegal activity to the destruction of the property to the immense cost of cleanup for Restorers.
The government monitors the cleanup process for properties with former meth labs, so until a property gets a clean bill of health (often several months later), the landlord cannot rent it out, resulting in more lost income. This is where FRA can help you get back into your property as soon as possible.
How would you know if a drug lab was located in your property?
Factors may include landlords of a real estate property may notice while inspecting a property several empty containers and boxes from chemicals. They may also notice stained soil or concrete, as well as dead grass from chemicals being dumped on the property.
Large quantities of over the counter medications like decongestants, stimulants or asthma medication. Paint thinners, lye, Freon, acetone, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid and ammonia are generally present.
Meth lab equipment might include several materials such as rubber hosing, duct tape, bottles and other glass containers, pressurized cylinders, camp stove fuel canisters, propane tanks and respiratory masks.
Other residents or neighbours may notice strong chemical odours in the area or complain about certain health conditions, like skin irritations, headaches and respiratory problems.
Neighbours may notice increased night activities at the rental property as well.
We know that for every kilo of drugs produced, seven kilos are waste product often left in or around the rental property. The drug residue and chemical production can be absorbed by the walls, ceiling materials as well as furniture, carpet and drapes.
Here are the general steps to properly clean up a meth lab that the professionals like FRA will follow:
- Source Removal — Contaminated material will be removed. Anything absorbent, like curtains, carpet, furniture, wallpaper also must be removed. It depends on the levels of contamination. Objects such as sinks, tubs, toilets and pipes must also be removed immediately.
- Provide Ventilation — Open your windows as some chemicals will lose some potency when the area is ventilated. This also reduces some odours.
- Cleaning the area — FRA will perform a chemical washing of nonporous and semi-porous areas like tiles, walls, ceilings, countertops and more. In extreme cases, however, these items may require replacement.
- Clean Vents —The ventilation system will be cleaned, and all air filters replaced. Ductwork and surfaces will be thoroughly washed out as well.
- Clean Plumbing Systems —The FRA restoration team will flush the plumbing system with a chemical cleaner to take care of any contamination in the system. In extreme cases, the plumbing system must be replaced. There are other steps that Restorers may take depending on the location, severity and contamination levels from the meth lab.
FRA understands the frustration of Landlords, Real Estate Agents and Insurers
The production and distribution of illegal drugs affect so many people in this country, and landlords, Real Estate Agents and Insurers are just some of the victims.
Landlords suffer financially from the huge bills from cleanup and repair, legal fees to evict tenants, possible costs to relocate other tenants, insurance issues and the difficulty of re-renting or even selling a previously contaminated property.
Meth labs in rental properties are a growing problem and one that can ruin a property owner’s business and harm innocent people in the process.
What can FRA do to assist you?
We have qualified Meth Lab specialists such as our Qld State Manager, Clint Merrifield who knows this is not a standard cleanup. It takes the know-how of many years’ experience and specialised training to ensure that every step of the way is carefully considered to ensure the health and safety of occupants and the staff at FRA.
Clint has some words of wisdom for anyone impacted by the aftermath of a meth lab explosion or discovery of a meth lab at your tenancy.
“Firstly, don’t touch anything inside. It may be corrosive or caustic. Don’t handle or attempt to move items you may find in the home as they may have chemical residues on them. Most importantly, once you discover the property contact the local authorities such as your local Police”. “They will assist you as it is a criminal offence they will be investigating,” says Clint.
Then you can call us or your local Insurer who will source remediation. We will be there promptly. The types of contamination we may find can include lithium metal, liquid ammonia, LPG, hydrochloric acid, and caustic soda. These containers can often leak or split with their contents flowing onto a number of different surfaces.
What are some of the things you do as a landlord to ensure your property doesn’t turn in to a meth lab? Keep an eye out for what on its own may seem like everyday items, but could also be used for other means.
- The property doesn’t appear to be occupied. Properties used to cultivate drugs are not always lived in, so keep an eye out during property inspections that the property appears to be lived in. If you happen to see regular visitors to the home at odd hours of the day or night, it may trigger some suspicion.
- Damaged meter boards. Meter boards were commonly tampered with or rewired, particularly those near walls and walk-in wardrobes to connect electricity wires to the power source.
- Portable air conditioners. Are often used when cultivating hydroponic crops.
- Modifications to the property. Can appear to be as harmless as being security conscious but could also be a warning sign. Security surveillance and guard dogs in a typical suburban home can raise suspicions.
- Keep vigilant for your tenancies and take advice from alert neighbours should they mention anything about these types of dwellings.
- Always contact the Police to deal with the criminal aspects of this nature and don’t touch anything inside the home.
- Once the authorities have given clearance, then contact your Insurer or Broker to ensure a thorough cleanup through reputable companies like FRA can take place. Remember, we are here to help you in a time of need.