HUNDREDS of investment properties across Queensland could be meth time bombs with experts warning clean up costs could run into the thousands.
Australia’s meth use has tripled in the past five years, and according to one industry testing group that means the number of clandestine drug labs would also be on the rise.
Bryan Goodall, the national sales manager for Octief, environmental and occupational hygienists, which test properties for chemical residue from methamphetamines, said it was a growing issue.
Some home buyers were so concerned about it they included meth testing in their home purchase due diligence, along with the standard building and pest inspections.
Mr Goodall said there were some tell take signs a home had been used for drug manufacture.
The biggest sign was an unusual chemical smell.
“Like ammonia or acetone, it almost smells of cat urine, it is not particularly a nice smell,’’ he said.
“It can also be large amounts of strange rubbish around the property, things like pseudoephedrine packets, or Sudafed packets, cold and flu tablets around.’’
Mr Goodall said strange bottles and jars could also be an indication.
From the outside, windows that are covered up and elaborate security systems could be warning signs.
While there may be tell tale signs for former drug labs Mr Goodall said the bigger emerging problem was homes which meth users had lived and smoked in.
Those often had no tell tale signs of the potential chemical time bomb future tenants could be exposed to.
He said a recent case in New Zealand was detected only after the children living in the home became ill.
Clean up costs for a “meth house’’ could be enormous, from $10,000 for low level contamination and much more for higher levels. Mr Goodall said in some cases walls or homes could need to be demolished.
Terri Scheer Insurance executive manager, Carolyn Parrella listed five warning signs your investment property could be used for drug production from marijuana to meth.
She said unauthorised modifications to the property could be a sign. In the case of marijuana production hydroponic set ups may require pipes or hoses to be filtered through the roof or the property’s man hole.
“Unexplained holes in the ceiling could be a sign of hidden systems,’’ she said.
Irregular activity could be an indication and she advised during property inspections you should look for signs that the property is being lived in.
“Drug manufacturers may not live in the properties they are using to cultivate drugs,” Ms Parrella said.
Visible damage such as fading paintwork could be a sign of drug cultivation.
“Intense lighting which is used in hydroponics could cause visible fading to paintwork,’’ she said.
“Similarly, look for signs of water damage – such as warped walls and floorboards, or stained carpets – because there’s a chance it could be more than just a leaky roof.”
Unusual items on site should also ring alarm bells.
Ms Parrella said most homes did not have an assortment of glass flasks, beakers and rubber tubing or chemical containers lying around, if you spot plenty of these it could be cause for concern.
She said be cautious of suspicious dealings with tenants. While as a landlord it might be nice to find a tenant willing to pay rent for months in advance, it may also be a way to keep the landlord “off their backs’’ and leave no paper trail for the authorities.
Ms Parrella said landlords who were suspicious of illegal activity should contact authorities immediately and not confront the tenant directly.
“The non-visible damage cost, such as the forensic cleaning required on a property that has been
used to manufacture chemical substances, is often one of the most expensive,’’ Ms Parrella said.