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Can you tell if that home you're looking to rent or buy was a former meth lab?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (

If you're looking at a home or apartment with rent that is far too reasonable, a warning sign should be flashing. You may want to investigate the possibilities that the home was a onetime place for cooking methamphetamine, also known as "meth" or "crank." The drug is made with ordinary household items and can leave trace amounts of toxic substances that can affect you and your loved ones.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Furthermore - if the property was indeed a former meth lab, the seller or landlord is under no obligation to tell you about it. The home's surfaces, insulation and carpeting may be steeped in poisonous substances that you can't smell, taste or feel.

There are no federal rules that require sellers or their agents to disclose a home's meth history -- and disclosure regulations are made by the individual states and can vary dramatically.

"In some states, there are no seller disclosure rules at all,"  Joseph Mazzuca, co-founder of Meth Lab Cleanup in Athol, Idaho says.

To cite an example, in Missouri, where there is countless meth labs, sellers aren't required to determine whether a home is contaminated before selling it. Sellers may also be allowed to conceal a home's meth lab past if the house has gone through decontamination.

An owner in Arkansas has no duty to disclose a home's former status once the property is deemed in compliance with safety standards by the state's Department of Environmental Quality. Decontamination can be a selling point in some areas.

In order to minimize the odds of buying a former meth lab, check with the DEA's National Clandestine Laboratory Register. Clicking on your state will reveal a list of known contaminated properties and addresses.

Renters and buyers should also check out the property's deed at the county clerk's office. When meth labs have been uncovered by local law officers, the property must be registered with the clerk in some states.

Local police are also a good source of information. Ask if there were any arrests or complaints made about the house. And talk to neighbors. They may have observed suspicious activity that never made it as far as the law.

You should also look for telltale signs of meth production, Mazzuca says. If there are old cans, bottles or packages of substances like acetone, muriatic acid, brake cleaner, drain cleaner, iodine, paint thinner, phosphorus or ether lying around - those are heavy indicators. Rubber gloves or tubing, dust masks, propane tanks, coolers and camp stoves are good telltale signs of former meth lab activity.

Even if there are no visible signs, buyers should test for contamination with kits that cost about $50. If a test turns up positive, a more comprehensive one can be conducted by a professional for between $500 and $700, Mazzuca says.

It goes without saying that you should avoid cheap foreclosed properties, which are usually sold "as is." A good hint is that many meth users lead messy lives. They lose their homes to foreclosure and the properties are often trashed and abandoned. Some are quickly resold at rock-bottom prices.

Once it's been determined that a house is contaminated, the cost of cleaning it up usually falls to the current owner, which can run $10,000 or more.

You can also forget about suing the former owners for the cost of the cleanup. In general, meth users have little to no money.

"Meth heads are typically low-lifes, disgusting, filthy people," Mazzuca says. "There's not a lot of money involved."


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