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How To Avoid Purchasing a P-contaminated Property

Lee Harris, Legal Executive at Turner Hopkins, expresses concern about the number of properties for sale in New Zealand which may be contaminated by methamphetamine ("P"), and suggests how purchasers can reduce the risk of incurring a significant loss as a result. "P contamination is no longer something that just happens to other people in dodgy parts of town," says Lee. "It's something that all property purchasers now need to consider and take sensible precautions to protect themselves against."

Debra Young is a Licensed Private Investigator at MethSolutions, which provides methamphetamine contamination testing services to the public. Debra says "If just one person has smoked P in a property, there will be meth residue there. However it is P manufacture that really results in dangerous levels of contamination. The health consequences can range from very unpleasant reactions to short term exposure, through to life threatening illnesses linked to prolonged exposure. We find P contaminants in over 40% of the homes we are asked to inspect, and this rises to over 50% for rental properties we inspect."

Debra advises that P labs have been set up in flats, holiday houses and motels, and can come and go within a week, leaving a long term legacy of contamination behind. "Remediation can range from fairly straightforward surface decontamination if P has just been smoked in a property, to extremely expensive repairs in the case of P manufacturing, where contaminated surface materials have to be removed, underlying structures decontaminated and rebuilding undertaken." says Debra.

MethSolutions emphasis the importance of laboratory-based analysis to ensure accurate detection of meth contaminants, and offers both a relatively inexpensive "Yes/No" test to identify properties with or without contamination, and a more detailed test to establish the level and location of contamination with a view to remediation. They also offer a remote monitoring system which can detect the existence of P chemicals in a rented property.

Lee Harris of Turner Hopkins says "You really do not want to buy a P contaminated property. Aside from the potentially horrible effects on the health of your family or future tenants, and the potentially very high cost of remediation, there is also the possibility that this could be recorded forever on the Council's LIM report for the property, which could have a devastating effect on any future sale price, if not render the property virtually unsaleable." Most insurance policies do not provide adequate cover for P contamination.

Lee recommends that purchasers should include methamphetamine testing by a reputable operator as part of their property purchase due diligence. "Any sale and purchase agreement should include a condition that the sale is conditional on a clear P test," says Lee. "Generally the purchaser would pay for the basic Yes/No P test. If the property fails the test, the purchaser and vendor may still be interested in pursuing the deal by investigating whether the contamination is minor and relatively easily remediated due to occasional P smoking, or major due to P manufacturing. In this case I would expect the vendor to pay for further detailed testing".

Lee says that forethought and prudent legal advice can be very helpful in avoiding the potential disaster of purchasing a methamphetamine contaminated property.

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