The methamphetamine scourge in Queensland is not only taking its toll in human misery, but also creating a nightmare for property managers and owners who have to clean up after the clandestine drug manufacturing operations.
It can cost up to $30,000 to rid a property of the potentially deadly chemical residue, a task which can require the services of specialist cleaners, often equipped with protective gear and procedures to protect against the harmful chemicals.
These are drugs so potent that they can still be detected after going through a thorough water treatment process. Not only is this activity illegal, it’s against the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act) which stipulates:
"…a tenant must…(not) use the premises for an illegal purpose…"
Where does this leave the property manager/owner?
In the RTRA Act, a landlord must "...ensure at the start of the tenancy, the property is fit for the tenant to live in…"
Regardless of its size, the residual contamination arising from illicit drug manufacture presents a serious safety risk to human health and the environment. Illegal drug manufacturing most often involves the improper storage and use of toxic and corrosive chemicals.
During drug manufacturing, toxic gasses and aerosols are produced. Chemicals used as precursors, and produced as by-products or drug products, can be present in the air and deposited onto surfaces within the home.
Contamination persists due to the absorption of chemicals in flooring, walls, drains and ducting, and furnishings and fittings. Exposure to this residual chemical contamination presents a risk to human health, potentially producing symptoms such as throat irritation, breathing difficulties, headaches, skin conditions, and mental health problems. In Queensland, chemical contamination from a meth lab site is deemed a public health risk under the Public Health Act 2005.
It is the local government’s responsibility to issue and enforce any Public Health Notice, and it is the property owner’s responsibility to act on and remedy any Public Health Notice.
So, what does this mean for the property manager/owner?
The bond paid may not cover the cost of a major clean-up. The property manager/owner's option would be to seek compensation from the tenant by going to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Property owners may have insurance which will cover the cost of clean ups, but preventing the problem may be achieved by checking references and conducting regular inspections during the tenancy.
More information is available by calling the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) direct on 1300 366 311. The RTA is the Queensland Government statutory authority that administers the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. We provide tenancy information, bond management, dispute resolution, investigation, and policy and education services.