There have been fresh calls for landlords to test for traces of methamphetamine (ice) in their property after a New South Wales tenant fell ill and was forced to leave her home due to prolonged second-hand exposure to the drug.
According to the report, Ms Veronica Rawlinson, who was renting a four-bedroom home in Nowra, had been experiencing ill health for several months. After undergoing a series of medical tests with inconclusive results, Ms Rawlinson contacted a company that conducts meth testing. Her home returned a positive reading.
“Everything changed after that,” said Ms Rawlinson. “I left the property with two cats and a handbag because all of my belongings were contaminated and now have to be triple wrapped in plastic and buried in the ground at the tip.”
Ms Rawlinson is currently pursuing compensation through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, however mandatory testing is not written into the legislation in NSW, at least not yet.
According to Meth Detection Australia, the company that tested Ms Rawlinson’s rented home, of the forty properties they have tested to date on the south coast, all have tested positive for methamphetamine. The owner of the business, Megan Liddicoat said, “I don’t think landlords know about the risk that they’ve got, they don’t understand, or it’s not been explained to them.”
The health risks of being exposed to meth residue are significant, according to Dr Jackie Wright, An Adjunct Researcher at Flinders University, who has been studying the impacts and risks of second-hand exposure to methamphetamine. Dr Wright said whether it’s the result of manufacture or personal use, the residual deposits from meth, which can stay in the property for years, stick to all hard surfaces in a property and penetrate carpets, curtains and furniture.
“The drug can have serious consequences on your health and can alter behaviour in children. Whenever you’re in the house, you’re exposed and it’s getting in your body,” said Dr Wright.
The industry is currently seeking guidance but is balking at advocating mandatory screening of rental properties, comparing the issue to asbestos in properties.
NSW Real Estate Institute CEO, Tim McKibbin said, “We are aware that methamphetamine is a problem within properties but what we don’t know is the extent of the problem.” The Institute has sought research from New Zealand, where many property management companies are now recommending meth testing for all newly listed rental properties following a case in 2016 where tenants were awarded more than $7,500 in damages due to meth contamination.
While the jury is still out in New South Wales and most other parts of Australia, mandatory meth testing is now “on the cards” for rental properties in Western Australia, according to an ABC news report this week. This would be a first for Australia with the call coming in the wake of WA’s ice epidemic. Any legislative reform would likely take two years to come into effect, if introduced.
With increasing discussion and concern surrounding this issue, there is nothing stopping you from suggesting a landlord take voluntary action to have the test done, especially if there is knowledge of prior meth activity in a residence or if the property is in an area known for heavy drug use. At a cost of $150 to $250, it could be money very well spent to reduce the landlord’s risk.
Should you decide to take the proactive option and recommend meth testing, Maintenance Manager can help by storing the names of local drug testing companies, automatically issuing an email to landlords as a reminder, liaising with the tenant and tracking the status of the job. Best of all Maintenance Manager, which delivers a host of other efficiencies, comes at no cost to your agency if you suggest landlords protect themselves fully against risk by investing in a PropertySafe inspection every two years. Contact us on 1300 155 888 for an obligation-free demonstration.