Long gone are the days in which meth was manufactured in broken down trailers in distant wooded enclaves in rural areas in the United States. In today’s world, meth is cooked in places that include rental apartment, condos, townhomes, and single-family residences. In addition, meth remains a widely used illegal drug. Many people smoke this dangerous mind-altering substance. Both making and smoking meth in a rental residential property can result in a space becoming dangerously contaminated by the substance. Residential meth contamination can be a significant health threat to people who come into contact with the contaminated property, including subsequent residents.
Legal Responsibility of a Landlord to Prospective Tenants
The laws regarding a landlord’s legal responsibility to a prospective tenant in regard to meth contamination differ from one state to another. In California, if the local health agency “shuts down” a rental property upon the discovery of chemicals or residue associated with meth production, a landlord ends up with a notification requirement. Specifically, when a landlord elects to re-rent the property to a new tenant, the landlord must provide the prospective renter with notice of the previously existing meth lab on the premises. In addition, California law also includes a requirement that the landlord provides a prospective tenant with a copy of the initial order “shutting down” the rental premises because of suspected meth manufacturing on the premises (or at least the presence of drug residue and chemicals associated with meth-making).
This notification must be provided to a prospective tenant before a lease is signed. If this information isn’t provided before the signing of a lease, the rental agreement becomes voidable. What this means is that the tenant not provided with information about the prior presence of a meth lab or of drug residue and chemicals associated with such an operation can walk away from the lease agreement without any penalty whatsoever. In addition, a tenant very well may be in a position to take further legal action against the landlord in this type of situation.
More broadly, and beyond the notification issue, a landlord has an overarching legal responsibility to ensure that rental property is in a reasonably safe condition before renting it to a prospective tenant. If a landlord has actual knowledge of a hazard at a rental property, that hazard must be rectified. If the process of rectifying a hazard will take some time, a landlord has an obligation to notify a prospective tenant of the danger on the premises.
The mere fact that a landlord may lack actual knowledge of a hazard at a rental property doesn’t necessarily relieve that individual of a legal obligation to a prospective tenant. If a landlord reasonably should have known about a hazard on the premises of a rental property, that individual has a legal obligation to a prospective tenant. The failure to rectify a hazard or advise a prospective tenant about it isn’t justifiable if a reasonable person in the shoes of a landlord would have known about the issue.
In addition to the legal obligations of a landlord to a tenant or prospective tenant when it comes to an issue of meth contamination, a landlord has rights as well. Specifically, if a landlord learns that an existing tenant has been making meth in a rental property, the laws in most states permit a landlord the ability to seek an immediate removal or eviction of the tenant from the premises. Beyond obtaining the physical removal of the tenant, a landlord can also seek money damages or compensation to cover the costs associated with meth decontamination.
Testing for Meth Contamination
There can be instances in which a landlord is unaware of the operation of a meth lab in a rental unit. In addition, it is also possible that a rented property is occupied by a meth dealer, a person who stores larger quantities of the drug on the premises. Finally, a tenant might smoke meth, an activity that the renter engages in often. These three scenarios are all situations in which the prospect for meth contamination may occur at a rental property.
The bottom line is that a future tenant will be exposed to this meth contamination and may encounter health problems as a result. This would raise the specter of whether the landlord should have known about the methamphetamine contamination and should have taken action to remediate or eliminate it.
The reality is that a landlord can obtain a relatively inexpensive testing of rental property for meth contamination before putting it on the market and making it available to prospective tenants. A meth decontamination company typically can provide this service.
Overview of Meth Decontamination
Meth decontamination is not a matter of giving a rental property a thorough cleaning. Eliminating meth contamination requires significantly more effort. This comes in the form of specialized equipment together with customized remediation agents designed to safely and thoroughly eliminate meth contamination in a rental property.