Is Your Home a Former Drug Lab? What Can You Do?


Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: July 20, 2009

Earlier today I read an article in the New York Times about a family that, unbeknownst to them, purchased and moved into a home which was formerly a methamphetamine lab. So? They moved in five years ago, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is, as it turns out, that these houses are contaminated by the meth. The contamination can permeate drywall, carpets, insulation and air ducts. And? Well, this contamination can cause respiratory ailments and other health problems.

The case in point is described in the NYT article Illnesses Afflict Homes With a Criminal Past which describes the Rhonda and Jason Holt family’s ordeal. The Holts moved into a former meth lab in 2005 and began experiencing mysterious illnesses.

Their three babies were “ghostlike and listless” with breathing problems that required respirators, trips to the ER and, for one child, the maximum steroid dose that a toddle can take. Mr. Holt experienced kidney problems.

The solution: Costly remediation which can top 10’s of thousands of dollars.

See Meth-Contaminated Home Slide Show

I am currently handling a matter wherein my clients bought a foreclosure property which had previously been used to cultivate marijuana. The humidity required to cultivate the marijuana caused severe mold problems throughout the house and, of course, the mold problems have caused health problems for my client.

What can you do?

In California, disclosure laws are such that person or entity (i.e., bank) selling or renting the property must advise you that the house you’re about to purchase was used as a drug lab under the following circumstances:

In the event that toxic contamination by an illegal controlled substance has occurred on a property and upon receipt of a notice from the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) or other agency—or if the seller has actual knowledge of the toxic contamination—the seller must disclose this information to the buyer by checking item II.C.1 of the TDS form and attaching the DTSC notice, if there is one.

In the case of rental property, the landlord must give a prospective tenant written notice of the toxic contamination. Providing the tenant with a copy of the DTSC notice will suffice if there is such a notice.

Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where your property is contaminated by an illegal controlled substance and you were not given notice of the contamination, you may have a cause of action for, among other things, Fraud, Failure to Disclose Material Facts, Breach of Contract, Intentional Misrepresentation and/or Negligence and may be entitled to recover for your property damage as well as any physical or emotional injury that you and your family may have suffered. Who may be responsible? Who can you sue? The seller, real estate broker, real estate agency, title insurance company, inspectors and the list of responsible parties goes on and on.

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