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Slow Down and Check for Speed – “P” and New Zealand Property

Lawyers are seeing an increase in agreements for sale and purchase with conditions relating to drug testing of properties.  The primary concern is whether there is the presence of “P” in the property.

As a vendor what are your obligations, if you know/or find out that “P” is present in your property? As a purchaser what are your rights to information about the presence of “P” in the property?

What is Meth?

“Speed”, “P”, “Pure”, “Crystal Meth” and “Ice” are all colloquial terms for methamphetamine (meth).  Meth is a synthetic drug in the group of drugs called amphetamines.  It is manufactured as opposed to being derived from plants.

Meth is a Class A controlled drug (a drug that poses a very high risk of harm) under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.  The manufacture of meth involves highly corrosive and dangerous chemicals.  Police reports estimate that producing one kilogram of methamphetamine creates seven kilograms of toxic by-products.

Cleaning up an affected property is not a simple task.  Removal of obvious bulk debris does not “clean up” a property.  Contamination can be left as surface residue (residue or dust) and as volatiles in air (compounds which are absorbed into household materials, carpets, furniture, curtains, plasterboard).

Selling a property – As Vendor what are my obligations?

There are statutory obligations imposed on property owners (agents and managers) for correcting chemical hazards on their property (Health Act 1956 and Building Act 2004).  There are also statutory obligations on landlords to their tenants, under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Contractual obligations are imposed on Vendors under the Agreement for Sale and Purchase of Real Estate ADLS/REINZ Ninth edition 2012 (2) – vendor warranties (no knowledge of requisitions from local/government authority/other statutory body, under the RMA or from a tenant or any other party).

Real estate agents may also be prosecuted, ranging from fines to imprisonment, cancellation of their licence or termination of employment if they knowingly market a residential property that has been used for the manufacture of meth (and not decontaminated) and makes the property available as an open home for viewing to the public.

If you suspect that “P” is present in your property, you can arrange for testing which will give a yes/no answer as to whether meth is present.  The samples won’t give the actual level of meth contamination.  Only detailed laboratory testing can determine the level and location of contamination.

A sample plan includes taking no less than 5 samples inside the building.  Samples on non-porous surfaces (bench tops, mirrors, metal surfaces) are taken by the collection of wipe or swab samples of 100cm2. If the contamination level is above 0.5ug per 100 sqcms, it is recommended that a property be decontaminated (2010 MOH guidelines for meth clean-up).

You cannot remediate (clean up) a contaminated property yourself as a vacuum and wash down of walls will not remove surface residue or volatiles in the air/on walls.  You need to engage a specialist who will decontaminate the property

Your insurance policy may cover the cost of removal of chemical residue but tend to not cover the cost of remediation where there is no actual evidence of chemical residue present.  Check your insurance policy for specific cover.

Purchasing a property – As Purchaser what are your rights?

Ask questions!  Has “P” ever been present in the property?  Has there been any activity around the property which might indicate use of “P”?  Has the property been rented?  Has the property been recently renovated, particularly interior repainting?

We recommend including a condition in the agreement for sale and purchase, that requires the Vendor at their cost, to

  • have the property tested for “P”
  • give you a copy of the report
  • (if required), have the property re-tested to give results for the levels of contamination and locations found (a detailed laboratory report) and if the results exceed the MOH guidelines; then
  • arrange for professional clean-up before you take possession

 

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