Commissioner's Blog: Drug contamination in homes
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Consumer Protection is aware that contamination or damage to homes from illegal drug activity is a worry for tenants, owners and property industry professionals.
But how do you identify past production, or smoking, of meth, heroin or cannabis at a property and whether there are potential health risks as a result?
We’ve been working with WA’s Department of Health (DOH) on a guide about this issue, focusing on clandestine laboratories (clan labs), smoke houses and cannabis grow houses.
Clan lab contamination is the subject of much public debate – symptoms of exposure range from behavioural changes, sleep disturbance and respiratory problems. At former cannabis grow houses we know that a physical risk could exist due to electrical safety but harmful, chemical residue is unlikely.
DOH say police tell them when drug properties are disrupted and any public health risk information is forwarded to the local government authority with advice to manage possible property contamination.
Bottom line: unless a property has been used to manufacture drugs the common view is that a thorough clean is often all that is required. There’s no need for routine testing between occupancies but if you have evidence testing is warranted, only use DOH-accredited forensic companies, listed at www.healthywa.wa.gov.au
Home sellers, real estate agents and private landlords will naturally have legal obligations to ensure a property is safe and clean for future occupants (buyers or tenants), so owners may wish to consider precautionary cleaning or testing if there is any clear evidence or signs of significant drug activity.
Real estate agents should use due care and skill to ascertain facts about a home. Clear evidence should be disclosed to a buyer or tenant as would be required under the industry code of conduct.
Owners who know of previous serious drug use and manufacturing at a home should tell prospective tenants, or their real estate agent if they’re going to sell the property. Non-disclosure could result in legal action, especially if it can be shown that the information was knowingly withheld.
Anyone who plans to buy or rent a property, and is aware that it is a former drug house, should sight clean-up documentation. Tenants with clear evidence of drug contamination may have options to end their lease if the situation isn’t rectified. Email email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54.
We strongly urge everyone to understand the issue before making any snap judgements about the safety or otherwise of a property. If you feel you’ve been pressured into buying expensive specialist drug testing and decontamination services you can also come to Consumer Protection to report your dealings with the provider.
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