Don't judge a house by its cover.
In late 2020 with the COVID19 pandemic raging around the world many people had fled the cities with the result that rural properties which once sat on the market for years were now selling very fast. Rentals were being snapped up and suddenly towards the end of 2020 rental properties became a scarce commodity with rents escalating to levels unknown in this area before. Add to this the escalating use of ICE in the community and you have a recipe fordisaster.
Michael and I had been in our rental for 21/2 years and were considered to be ideal tenants. We paid our rent on time, caused no damage and always left the premises cleaner than when we took them over. However in October 2020 the owners of our rental decided they wished to return to their home and so our lease was brought to a close. With nothing on the market at that time we were faced with a scary situation.
A friend rang one day with news that a unit near her may become vacant. A neighbour had contacted her to say the tenant was obviously moving out. Arrangements were made for the neighbour to contact the owner, an associate of hers through work. The owner rang us the next morning and advised we should contact the agent who happened to be the same agent we were already with. Following up on this call we contacted the agent and arranged to view the property. It was tiny, very tiny compared to the three bedroom home we were currently in. However it looked neat, tidy and had a new kitchen and been recently painted. The agent talked about the recent renovations, new kitchen, new flooring in kitchen and freshly painted throughout just prior to the current tenant moving in. The place looked cute despite its small size so we decided to take the rental for twelve months and place some of our belongings in storage until we could either find another property that was larger or buy a house in the area.
There were however some niggles that I wish now we had been more aware and known that these could be danger signs. There were score marks on the walls, some quite deep ones but we were assured these would be taken care of. The garage was full of what looked like rubbish. We were told that no-one knew who it belonged to and the story given to the agent by the tenant was that the property belonged to a friend of hers. We found out later the ‘friend’ in question was a known drug dealer in the area.
Sadly we now live in a world where drug use and especially the use of ICE is escalating at an alarming rate. Along with this increase in use is the increase in contamination of properties. You cannot tell if a property is contaminated by just looking at it as many properties are ‘cleaned up’ prior to selling or leasing. There is generally no smell (although there can sometimes be an ammonia type smell) and Meth is invisible, unlike mould. The price of the property, the size of the property, the reputation of the owner or agent gives no clues either because Meth is not a drug that is class based. It is a drug that transcends financial considerations and socio-economic status. It is not merely the drug of the unemployed drop out as there are multi-millionaires who use Meth. Any property can be contaminated and this is precisely how we fell into the trap. The unit looked clean, we knew the agent and trusted them, the owner was a local who lived nearby, what could possibly go wrong? We were soon to find out.
Yvonne Lacey OAM
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