Was Your Home a Meth Lab?
There have been many surprising discoveries made by owners after moving into a recently purchased home. Even with diligent inspections, purchasers can end up with problems they had no knowledge of and no basis to suspect. Most often, these problems are of the leaky roof or wet basement variety. But, increasingly, buyers are finding that their new home once served as a meth lab. The presence of the toxic chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine can sicken the occupants and render a home uninhabitable.
Is a seller required to disclose that the home was used for meth production? Laws vary from state to state, but few expressly require such a disclosure. Ohio has a mandatory disclosure form that must be completed by residential property sellers pursuant to R.C. 5302.30. While the form requires the seller to disclose the presence of toxic or hazardous substances, it only asks specifically about lead-based paint, asbetos, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation and radon gas. Thus, a seller might fail to disclose methamphetamine.
To address the disclosure issues, Ohio legislators have introduced Substitute House Bill No. 33, which would establish a datebase with the Ohio Attorney General to track properties used for meth production. The intent is that the database would be searched in connection with a title search and thereby alert the prospective purchasers of the home’s history. The bill would also require the property disclosure form to be revised to include an express disclosure requirement for methamphtamine manufacturing on the property. The property could be removed from the database, and the disclosure requirement would no longer apply, once the methamphetamine residue has been removed by a contractor in accordance with guidelines to be prescribed by the director of health.
Until this legislation is enacted, or in states lacking similar legislation, prospective purchasers can consult the U.S. DEA’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register to see if the property is listed. Speaking to neighbors or the local police department is another way to determine if the home has been used for drug production. If there is any concern, a buyer may want to hire a qualified contractor who can determine whether meth has been present in the home.