Sellers have to disclose known material defects and complete a Seller’s Property Disclosure form when listing property for sale. There can be health risks associated with living in a house where meth was produced or used.
Some telltale signs that a property could be contaminated by meth include discolored walls, strong ammonia-like odors, empty over-the-counter drug packets, and areas of dead vegetation in the yard. Homebuyers have the right to have a house tested for meth during the contractual inspection process whether or not any of these signs are present.
If a buyer tests a property and meth is found, the buyer can terminate the contract, ask the seller to remediate, or agree to buy the property and assume liability for remediation (typically after negotiating a discount on the selling price). Buyers assuming liability must notify the State Department of Health and finish the cleanup within 90 days after closing. Buyers who purchase property without testing it and later discover that sellers knew it was contaminated can sue sellers if sellers knew and did not remediate. Sellers who fail to disclose or remediate are liable for the cleanup costs as well as attorney fees and resulting healthcare costs.
What rights do owners have? Sellers may do a second test, and if it is also positive, they may clean up the property to meet state standards. Sellers who remediate and report to the state will not be liable to buyers, a future owner, renter, or neighbor. Property owners may instead choose to demolish the property.
Sellers must either bring the property up to state standards or give written notice to buyers. Brokers are required to disclose if they know of contamination and should direct their clients to seek professional assistance from an experienced attorney, an experienced and credible Industrial Hygienist (IH) or Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), and get information from the local health department or governing body that handles meth.
There may be public records of meth lab locations, and depending on the county, they may be kept by the police, the health department, or another agency. People can use available resources and testing to avoid the health and financial risks of meth labs.
If buyers or owners decide to test, state law requires that the tester be either a CIH or an IH. Choosing the professional should be done carefully.
This article is only meant to provide a current, brief summary of some issues that arise in real estate transactions regarding meth. Please consult an attorney or other qualified professional experienced in this area for further information, advice, and changes to the law.