A little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Knowing to ask your home inspector to test for meth contamination can prove to be the difference between a place to call home and a place you can never go back to. Indiana currently ranks #1 in the US for meth seizures with 1721 labs found. Many were in homes now listed for sale.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Be Aware If you move into a home previously used to cook or ingest meth, the health effects are quick to manifest themselves and are serious. Migraines, nosebleeds, respiratory and sinus complications, skin irritation, nervous system disorders and more. Small children are especially vulnerable. Symptoms will not abate while living in the home, because everything gets contaminated in the cooking process: walls, curtains, air ducts. The many variations of chemicals used to make meth – pseudoephedrine, (a popular decongestant), acetone (nail polish remover) phosphine (an insecticide), red phosphorus (from matches), iodine, Drano, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer) – seep into the home and stay there.
Prevention Under current Indiana law, a seller does not have to disclose the history of a home as a meth house. (NOTE: Newkirk Realty always recommends full, not minimum, disclosure on all issues.) You can do some research on what signs to look for so you’ll have an awareness, but the best advice is to hire a professional home inspector. A home inspection is critically important but a test for meth is not required. You can ask an inspector to add a test to their standard protocol. In addition, a list of seized Indiana labs published by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) would be prudent for any homebuyer to check.
Whether or not our #1 ranking in lab seizures is a good or bad thing is debatable – a higher ranking could point to the fact police are getting better at finding the labs. Even with a higher success rate in finding the meth homes, it is still an elusive process with only an estimated 20% of labs seized. “If we as law enforcement never knew that there was a lab there, there’s no way for that homeowner to know either,” says Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Nikki Crawford.
Recently a law was passed that will require the Indiana State police to keep a database of all homes that have been contaminated with meth – not just where labs were seized. In addition, property owners must specifically disclose a known meth contaminated property during a real estate transaction. The law takes effect July 1.
Remediation If you suspect you are living in a meth-contaminated home, you can still call a home inspector, or use a do-it-yourself test kit. If you get a positive result, by Indiana law the carpet and padding at the very least must be removed. Full de-contamination can run $10,000 to $30,000 and in Indiana must be done by a state-certified company. Unfortunately, homeowner’s insurance often does not cover this cost.
“If someone buys a home that has previously been used to manufacture meth, the new homeowner’s policy won’t cover it. Homeowners policies are “occurrence basis” policies. This means that the policy in force at the time of an incident is the one that will cover it,” says Todd Curry, owner of Curry Agency Inc. in Fishers. “In the case of meth, the policy in force at the time of making the meth won’t cover it because it’s a loss arising from an intentional act committed by the insured.”
Meth lab activity is up. You can walk right into a former meth house and not even know it. Educate yourself, and invest in a simple test. It is one more step in the dozens you’ll take when buying a new home, but never was an ounce of prevention worth so much.