You’ve read the articles, seen the news reports, and heard the radio angst. The scourge of Methamphetamine, or ‘P’ as it is commonly known.
Over the next couple of blog posts we are going to look at Meth and your property. We want to get behind the headlines and the hype and look at its implications and management from the perspective of property owners (whether it be owner occupier or investor).
Our view is simply the better informed, the better protected we all are.
In this article we will examine what the drug is and why it is a concern. Then we will investigate how to determine if your property has issues and what to do about it. Finally, what to look for, how to prevent it affecting your property and what to do when buying.
What is it?
What we commonly know as Meth, Methamphetamine or ‘P’ is from the family of drugs called amphetamines. These drugs speed up messages to and from the brain, which is why they are sometimes known as ‘Speed’. The drugs are used legally to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, and are sometimes an ingredient in diet pills. The illegal stuff in NZ most frequently comes in the form of Crystals or Powder (Crystal Meth or Meth Powder).
The illegal drug is manufactured (or ‘cooked’) by combining various ingredients including pseudoephedrine extracted from over-the-counter cold and flu medicines (or imported because of restrictions in buying quantity these days).
The Drug Foundation website contains a lot of useful information and you can (and should) read more here.
Forget the antihero’s of TV's Breaking Bad, this is horrible stuff. Really horrible.
It’s an illegal, bad for you, drug that people take for short term feelings of euphoria and energy.
This of course ignores the downside effects of this charming substance.
Heavy and frequent use can lead to paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour - things all too commonly ending up in a court room.
Of course the long term effects are just as wonderful, including severe physical and mental health issues.
The problem is widespread (we think).
A government action plan against P was launched in 2009 when it was determined that NZ had one of the highest rates of P usage in the world. Seizures of precursors, convictions of suppliers and manufacturers have all increased since, but other important metrics show that good supply is still available.
The total number of contaminated homes in NZ is unknown. Some argue the problem is as large as leaky homes, others much smaller. Like much of this space there are conflicting opinions, for example this one that concludes the issue is mainly restricted to the rental/tenancy market.
What is known is that between 2000 and 2012 Police discovered more than 1200 clandestine labs. A NZ Drug Council article from February quoted one testing company doing more than twice as many tests in 2015 compared to 2014. Even though total use seems somewhat static currently (at 0.9%) of the population users and manufacturers can be quite mobile.
NZ’s largest home provider, Housing NZ, sees significant and growing issues - one estimate being 600 plus homes will need decontamination in 2016. Up from only 28 in 2013.
Or maybe it is just that we are becoming more aware of the issue and the numbers are a backlog from the last decade or more. Or perhaps testing and analysis, policing and reporting of activities are all improving so we are hearing more about it.
Either way it is an important problem and one all home owners should be aware of.
There is no typical property at risk. Manufacturing labs have been found in all types of homes, from cheap rentals, to rural lifestyle blocks, to inner city apartments (including one directly across the street from Police National Headquarters), even hotels.
Why is this a concern for you and your property?
A recent ANZ property investors survey identified meth contamination as the number one concern of property investors.
The manufacture and/or consumption of meth in a property leaves traces/substance and damages your home. These are chemicals that do not go away. Many of the chemicals used to synthesise methamphetamine are highly corrosive and dangerous. Police estimate that producing one kilogram of methamphetamine creates seven kilograms of toxic by-product.
If your home is contaminated it also goes on the property file (and LIM) at the council - a permanent record. For example, the Auckland City Council process for what happens when they are notified is here.
While much of the media attention focuses on clandestine labs, it is not just about the cases where the drug has been manufactured in your home.
You risk exposure to these chemicals through inhalation and absorption even if not using them. Just imagine the impact on a small child crawling around on contaminated carpet.
This is not the kind of stuff you want in your home or investment. The presence of drug contamination in your property reduces its value significantly, creates clean up costs and other potential liabilities.
This is horrible stuff. It is not something you want in your home or investment. Neither you, your family, your tenants or anyone else for that matter, wants to be exposed to the effects of the drug by simply living in your property. That of course affects the value of your home/investment.
Quite simply the presence of contamination from this drug negatively affects how liveable your home is and its value.
The next article will look at how to determine if your property has issues and what to do about it.