Try as they may, landlords oftentimes are unable to seamlessly turn over a rental unit. When one tenancy comes to an end, a landlord doesn’t have another renter immediately in the offing ready to take over occupancy of a property. Indeed, there is a natural lag even when a subsequent tenant is identified due to the need for maintenance and repair following the end of a lease. What all of this means is that a rental property is going to have a period of vacancy. Meth cooks or manufacturers are well aware of this reality and they’ve proven themselves willing to take advantage of it. In other words, with increasing frequency meth labs are set up in vacant rental properties in communities across Southern California and the United States.
How a Meth Lab Works
A meth lab generally is defined as a clandestine operation at which a meth manufacturer (oftentimes called a “meth cook”) assembles various chemicals, including hazardous and volatile substances. These various ingredients are mixed and then cooked together in a manner that produces illicit meth.
Because of the manner in which a meth lab work, meth itself and other hazardous combination of chemicals can remain on surfaces for months or even years. Thus, even after a meth lab shuts down, harmful substances that can cause serious health issues can contaminate the location of such an operation for an extended period of time. In order to appropriately address the aftereffects of a meth lab, professional meth decontamination is vital.
Seven Steps to Prevent the Establishment of a Meth Lab in Vacant Rental Property
The owner of vacant rental property can take affirmative steps to protect it against being used for meth manufacturing. There are seven important steps that can be taken to prevent the establishment of a meth lab in vacant rental property.
- Meet or exceed local security and safety standards. When it comes to securing vacant rental property, more is far better when it comes to security. For example, add deadbolts to the exterior doors if they are not already present. Similarly, add substantial locks to the windows as well.
- Enhance outdoor and indoor lighting. If a rental property is kept adequately illuminated day and night, a miscreant with sites on a vacant rental property for use as a meth lab will be less apt to invade the premises.
- Keep trees, bushes, and hedges trimmed. By keeping vegetation at and around a vacant rental property in-check and well-trimmed, hiding places around the property are eliminated. What can be used as staging areas of a person who desires to break into a vacant property to cook meth is removed.
- Add alarms to the property. If the vacant premises were not previously alarmed, adding this level of security is advisable. A system should not only emit a loud alarm if the premises are breached but should be connected to the security company and law enforcement.
- Add cameras to the premises. In order to protect against the establishment of a meth lab at a vacant rental property, add cameras around the perimeter of the structure. Ideally, such a camera system provides a live video feed that can be streamed via an app to a smartphone or to a computer.
- Hire a security guard. While hiring a security guard usually is beyond the budget of a residential rental property owner, this step can make sense for the owner of vacant commercial property. A security guard need not be on duty around the clock. Rather, an effective strategy can be to have a security service send someone to the property randomly throughout the day.
- Coordinate with the local police department. The owner of a vacant rental property needs to advise local law enforcement of the status. The police and sheriff are eager to prevent the vacant property of any type becoming a staging area from crime. This definitely includes the manufacture of meth.
- Regular visits to and walkthroughs of a vacant rental property. Merely because a rental property has become vacant doesn’t mean that the owner or property management company can keep the premises out of mind. In fact, in many ways an owner or management company needs to be more vigilant in keeping an eye on a vacant property. This includes making regular (although random) visits to the property. These visits should be more than just a drive-by and need to involve a walk-through of the property.
Signs of a Meth Lab in a Vacant Rental Property
There are a number of signs of a meth lab at a vacant rental property. The most obvious sign is neighbors reporting activity at a house that should be deserted.
Other signs that a vacant rental property may have become the site of a meth lab include complaints of strong chemical odors coming from the rental property. Increased utility usage is another sign of a possible meth lab being operated at a vacant rental property.
Discovery of a Meth Lab
If a property owner discovers a meth lab or what appears to be the remnants of such an operation, that individual needs to immediately leave the property, secure it so no one else can gain access, and call the police. A HAZMAT team might be called in to remove some particularly dangerous items from the premises. However, the property owner has the ultimate obligation to seek professional assistance in regards to meth decontamination.