The most significant impact from a meth lab in a rental property is the contamination of the unit where the drugs are manufactured. People who live in a home where a meth lab has been operating previously often suffer from a range of health issues. From inhalation to absorption through the skin, the toxins from meth production can cause problems, even from short-term exposure. Common ailments include headaches, nausea, fatigue, respiratory issues like coughing, chest pain, skin burns, kidney damage, cancer and even death.
A meth lab in a rental property can be a landlord’s worst nightmare—from the illegal activity to the destruction of the property to the immense cost of cleanup. Until a property gets a clean bill of health (often several months later), the landlord cannot rent it out, resulting in more lost income.
Meth labs are frequently set up in all kinds of spaces, such as storage sheds, campgrounds, motel rooms, vacant buildings, garages and rental homes and apartments. The process of cooking meth leaves a toxic residue that contaminates walls, ceilings, furniture, and even the soil. These toxins can have significant health effects on anyone else who is exposed for the short term and the long term.
The chemicals used to cook meth are highly toxic, but they are also volatile and therefore highly combustible. It’s very easy for meth labs to cause explosions, damaging the property as well as neighboring areas, plus endangering lives.
A property owner is responsible for the cost of cleanup from an operating meth lab. The cleanup is not just limited to scrubbing and removing garbage. Often running into the tens of thousands of dollars, meth lab cleanup is strictly regulated and must be inspected by a government agency before a property can be deemed livable again.
If a meth lab has not been properly cleaned, the property owner will not be allowed to rent it out. A meth lab location must be cleaned by professionals, and it gets very expensive. When a meth lab is discovered in a rental property, the owner of the property is responsible for the cost of cleanup. While most insurance companies don’t cover damages from meth labs, landlords should work closely with their insurance company for assistance in cleanup and in selecting a certified cleanup crew.
Some of the clues of a meth lab that a landlord may notice while inspecting a property include empty containers and boxes from chemicals. Other clues include stained soil or concrete, as well as dead grass from chemicals being dumped. Large quantities of over the counter medications like decongestants, stimulants or asthma medication. Paint thinner, lye, Freon, acetone, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid and ammonia are generally present. Meth lab equipment might include rubber hosing, duct tape, bottles and other glass containers, pressurized cylinders, camp stove fuel canisters, propane tanks and respiratory masks.
Other residents or neighbors may notice strong chemical odors in the area or complain about certain health conditions, like skin irritations, headaches and respiratory problems. Neighbors may notice increased night activities at the rental property as well. Landlords may notice a new security system installed without permission, covered windows and an above average amount of trash.
If a landlord notices an excessive amount of any of these items, they should not disturb anything and should notify the police immediately. Meth labs are essentially sites for hazardous waste and should only be entered by professionals who are trained to deal with them.
With the significant financial impact of discovering a meth lab in their rental property, many landlords are desperate to figure out ways to prevent tenants from ever considering it. There are three things landlords can do to minimize the likelihood of residents bringing in a meth lab.
- Conduct Good Tenant Screening. Checking out a tenant’s past history is one of the best ways to see what they will be like in a new place. Good tenant screening means calling previous landlords and verifying that they are legitimate, checking employment references, verifying income and looking at criminal history. While a clean background check doesn’t guarantee anything, it reduces the odds significantly.
- Stay Involved. It’s easiest to set up meth labs in rental properties where the landlord doesn’t engage with the property often. Landlords that don’t get involved in their property make it easy for meth labs to thrive. Tenants are less likely to participate in illegal activities in a rental property if they think they can be discovered at any time.
- Be Observant. Having lots of eyes and ears on the rental property can discourage tenants who may consider setting up a meth lab there.