Originally Posted By: Caoimh?n P. Connell
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.
A question of liability for Home Inspectors ? (Food for thought).
The production of illegal drugs in homes and other real estate (hotels, motels, commercial storage sheds, etc), has hit an all time high in the US. These areas are known as ?clan-labs? or ?meth-labs? although the distinction is nebulous and arbitrary.
It should be common knowledge by now, but for those who may not know, meth-labs leave behind a legacy of chemical residues in a home to which the new occupants may be exposed. These residues can remain even after extensive cleaning efforts by the home seller or commercial housecleaning firms. For example, in one residence which had been ?thoroughly cleaned? by a commercial firm ? twice - I found 12,000 ?g of methamphetamine per 100 cm2 of surface area, which is 24 thousand times higher than the permissible limit. The combined surface area of the contaminated building item was only 180 square feet (approximately 13 feet on a side), yet at this contamination level, that was equivalent to 200 street doses whose $$ value was a whopping $10,000 worth of methamphetamine residue.
The list of hazardous residues left behind in the ?new? home can be lengthy and very impressive including mercury, lithium, iodine, acids, caustics, cocaine, LSD, and THC. More troubling still are the more active threats (booby traps, bombs, needles and guns in walls, etc).
These clan-labs leave behind tell-tale signs of their existence which often are visibly present to the trained eye during a walkthrough. What liability does an Home Inspector incur if they miss those indicia, and the new buyers move into a home and are subsequently exposed to this soup of contaminants?
I have been fielding a lot of calls from Home Inspectors and realtors alike who?s clients are concerned that the house they are buying may once have contained a meth-lab. Do you have language in your contracts that explicitly cover your liability regarding this issue? Should you? Does your state have regulations that cover meth-labs?
On Jan 19 of this year, the State of Colorado became the first state in the Union to promulgate a scientifically based meth-lab standard. The regulation became effective March 30, and requires a property owner to clean the home using specific cleanup protocol, and meet very specific cleanup standards. Notification of the meth-lab can come from anyone who is a cognizant professional.
If a meth-lab gets missed, and the buyer purchases the home, under the new Colorado regulation, the buyer would be on the hook for the entire cleanup. Their means to relief would be to subrogate their liability via third party law suits. Who do you imagine would be named in that law suit?
In my area, the local Home Inspector?s professional affiliation has asked me to give a lecture on meth-labs, and their indicia; which I will be doing (for free) at the end of June. The reason I was asked was because I have been working meth-labs for a number of years, and was on two of the legislative teams which assembled Colorado?s new regulation (I was the primary author of the actual protocols for sampling and contamination assessment). If you are interested, those protocols are available in PDF form from the State of Colorado web site. The assessment protocols of which I was the primary author are found as Appendix A and Attachment to Appendix A of the regulation:
The supporting criteria document is located at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/methlabcleanuplevelsupport.pdf
Colorado?s complete meth-lab page is at
We have just uploaded our forensic meth-lab page at
http://members.aol.com/fiosrach/meth.html and you can find additional information there.
Just food for thought?
Caoimh?n P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)