Buyer Beware: Spotting a Meth Lab
Every year, thousands of meth lab homes are sold to buyers that are unaware that their new home’s insulation, surfaces and flooring is contaminated by poisonous substances. With many buyers looking at short sales and foreclosures, often times the banks do not know the condition of these properties. In fact, in some states meth labs do not have to be disclosed to potential buyers. However, the long-term damage and effects of meth are devastating.
Police uncover thousands of harmful meth labs a year, while even more go undetected and unreported. While the federal government requires lead-based paint presence and hazards be disclosed to potential buyers, there are no federal disclosure regulations for disclosing homes’ and/or properties’ meth history.
Some states do not require sellers to even determine if a home is contaminated, and with foreclosures flourishing, this is especially difficult for banks. Additionally, some states allow sellers to even conceal a home’s meth lab history if the house has been properly decontaminated and given a clean bill of health. But for many unsuspecting homebuyers, this simply isn’t acceptable, as they don’t want their families living in contaminated conditions.
According to the National Association of Realtors®, as Realtors® pledge to abide by a strict Code of Ethics (different from real estate agents, where no code is applicable), they are required to disclose any known property defects. However, the key word is known and if it is unknown to a Realtor®, he/she is not responsible.
Buyers should do their own due diligence and check with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) National Clandestine Laboratory Register, in addition to individual state and local health departments. These often have a list of properties that have known meth contamination. Additionally, checking with local police departments is a good way to find out frequent comings and goings, including suspected meth homes.
When looking at a home, buyers can minimize some risks by looking for certain signs that a home was a former meth lab, which includes bottles or packages of acetone, old cans, brake cleaner, muriatic acid, iodine, drain cleaner, phosphorus, paint thinner, rubber gloves, rubber tubing, propane tanks, dust masks, camp stoves and coolers. Even if no visible signs are present, buyers can purchase meth lab cleanup kits for around $50. If the test is positive, buyers can decide if they want to pursue professional testing, which costs $500 to $700.
The danger in buying a meth lab is the cleanup costs, which are often estimated to exceed $10,000 and in some cases for properties can cost $50,000 or more.
Better Than Loans specializes in fast loan funding. As a hard money lender they offer convenient financing options for foreclosures, including commercial building loans and apartment building loans.