Meth House 101

Purchasing a new home is always an exciting time. Even before you move in, your head is likely filled with decorating ideas and plans for how to make the home your own. However, amid the euphoria of getting into your new house, the furthest thing from your mind might be that the house was formerly used as a venue for producing methamphetamine. In this case, your dream home becomes a nightmare. New homeowners usually check for termites, lead paint, and cracks in the foundation, but the possibility of meth contamination is often overlooked until it’s too late.

Numerous families have unknowingly bought and moved into such houses. Soon after, the new homeowners started experiencing flu-like symptoms and respiratory ailments which often lead to asthma. Houses that have been contaminated by the production or use of meth are pretty much uninhabitable until they have been thoroughly cleansed of the meth residue. Unfortunately, the cost of this process can range from several thousand to over $100,000 and homeowner’s insurance does not cover the cost.

Cleaning Meth Houses

There are varying levels of meth contamination based on whether meth was produced or just used in the home. If the home’s occupants cooked the substance in the home, the level of contamination can be pretty severe. The residue seeps into all exposed surfaces including the wallboard and settles on all metal fixtures and appliances causing them to corrode. If the occupants smoked meth in the home but didn’t produce it, the level of contamination is much lower and easier to clean.

In the event that meth was produced in a home, the cleaning crew needs to remove all porous materials such as cabinets, furniture, and the carpet. These items, along with the home’s appliances and air ducts need to be removed and destroyed. Then all the walls need to be stripped out down to the studs. In dealing with the meth situation, one homeowner simply replaced the carpeting and painted the walls. Unfortunately, meth residue cannot be diluted so the home was still highly contaminated and needed to have all the drywall removed.

Detecting Meth Contamination in a House

The contamination in houses where meth production occurred can usually be detected during the standard home inspection. There is often evidence of a yellow residue on the walls and cabinets and the house itself is usually in disrepair. Because home inspectors don’t include meth contamination testing in their process, the contamination can often go undetected until after the new owners take up residence. In many cases, it’s too late to back out of the sale. It’s best to arrange for specific meth contamination testing if you suspect that some form of meth activity occurred in the home.

To determine if a home should be tested, check with the Department of Health. If the house was involved in some kind of drug bust, they would have a record of it. There is also an online database of “busted meth houses.” Try to learn about the history of the home and past residents. For example, a cause for suspicion might be that the home was previously a rental property and not maintained very well. Finally, check with the neighbors to see if they know anything about the previous occupants and if they suspect that drug activity occurred on the premises.

Health officials in many states are taking steps to prevent home buyers and renters from getting into potential meth house situations by providing information about homes and rental properties that have a history of drug busts. However, many states are struggling to keep up with the costs of such an endeavor. Therefore, the responsibility is still on the part of the buyer or renter to take the initiative to learn about the property.

By Salt Lake Digs Contributor, David Jensen

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