Health officials want meth history on house listings
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Thursday, August 14, 2008
FARMINGTON – A meth house is a meth house no matter how much residue is left, according to state standards.
However, under current state law, sellers and landlords do not have to disclose to potential buyers or renters if former residents used meth in the house.
That needs to be fixed, Davis County health officials said Tuesday. They agreed to a resolution asking state lawmakers for legislation requiring sellers and landlords to disclose whether former residents used or produced methamphetamine in a residence.
The resolution also states that, if the property has been cleaned to state standards, which means no detection of any meth, then sellers or buyers will not need to disclose meth had been on the property.
Brian Cook, a member of the health board, said as a former real estate agent, he was concerned the proposed resolution was not clear on what should be reported.
If an agent was aware the former residents smoked meth in the home but had cleaned it to state standards, then it shouldn’t have to be reported, Cook said.
Davis County has not discovered a meth lab since September 2006, when one was found in a Bountiful mobile home. But the county health department still gets calls from residents concerned about possible meth residue in their homes, said Lewis Garrett, the county health director.
Under state law, those residences are not listed as contaminated property, but if a trace of meth is found in a home, then the homeowner has to clean it until none is detectable, Garrett said.
“If we can detect it, they should clean it up,” he said.
The health department helps homeowners contact certified cleaning companies, Garrett said. Decontamination can be expensive. Walls need to be painted, carpets, padding and drapes replaced, and vents and duct work cleaned. The work can cost several thousand dollars or more.
Once cleaned, the homeowner then has to have the tests done again, which costs more money.
There is no scientific evidence to state how much meth residue is hazardous, Garrett said.
Most residue found in homes comes from vapors of meth smoked, according to a news release from the state health department. The residue is deposited on the walls, floors and furnishings.
Garrett said he is more concerned with the precursors used to make the illegal drug than with the drug itself.
“The precursors are more caustic,” he said.
The drug is rarely made in Utah now because of laws limiting the sale of chemicals used to make meth, but meth is still showing up in homes.
Potential buyers are discovering meth in homes they are interested in during the transaction, even though the home was never listed as a meth lab, said Shalece Kofford, the state methamphetamine initiative program coordinator with the state health department.
Buyers will request a meth test because they are now more aware that the problem is out there, Kofford said.
Meth is the No. 1 drug of choice among Utahns, with 60 percent of known users women, Kofford said.
Home kit tests are available through local building stores, but the state accepts only tests done by certified decontamination services, she said. Those tests can cost $50 or more.
The state health department has brochures available for owners, sellers, buyers, renters and landlords on how to decontaminate properties.
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