Meth labs are a growing problem in communities large and small across the country. Meth labs are where methamphetamine, an illegal drug, is made, or “cooked.” Meth is relatively cheap to make and easy to produce, and criminals can set up labs in temporary locations to make some quick money. The reason this impacts landlords is because meth labs are frequently set up in rental properties and apartments.
The financial impact on landlords who discover meth labs in their rental properties is enormous, so many landlords are looking for ways to reduce the likelihood of tenants setting up a meth lab in a rental property. Learn why meth labs are so harmful to a property owner’s business and then focus on ways to prevent meth labs in a rental property.
How Meth Labs Affect a Rental Property
The process of cooking meth leaves a significant impact on the property where production is taking place. The chemicals used in production and the chemicals created as a byproduct of the meth are highly toxic and seep into any porous surface, like walls, carpet, furniture and ceilings. Chemical dumping can impact plumbing systems and ventilation or lack of it can affect the HVAC system.
The effects are so toxic that state governments forbid anyone from residing in a property with a former meth lab until it has been professionally restored. People who live in homes where meth has been cooked suffer from a range of health issues, from headaches, nausea, and respiratory conditions to kidney failure, cancer and death.
If a meth lab is discovered in a rental property, the owner bears all the financial burden of cleaning up the property. The cost to hire a professional clean-up crew generally runs into the tens of thousands of dollars and takes several months. The landlord may have to pay the fees to relocate other tenants as well. While the property is being cleaned, it cannot be rented, resulting in loss of income over several months.
The government must certify the property as safe and habitable before any new tenants can move in. In addition, many states require landlords to disclose all previous contamination, making it harder to rent out again to qualified applicants.
So how can landlords minimize the odds of a meth lab in their rental property? While there are no guaranteed methods, there are some steps landlords can take to reduce the odds.
3 Steps that Reduce the Risks of Meth Labs
There are 3 steps that landlords can take to ensure that future and current tenants won’t get away with setting up a meth lab in the rental property.
Step 1. Conduct a Thorough Tenant Screening
Screening applicants thoroughly is one of the best ways to ensure that landlords know what kind of tenant they will be renting to. It’s important to do a top-notch job in contacting previous landlords and verifying their identity, confirming employment history and wages, and looking into criminal history. Some sneaky tenants may ask friends or family members to pose as employers or landlords, making it tough to get accurate information. However, a good tenant screening company knows how to get the information landlords need to make wise choices on applicants.
Step 2. Set the Tone for Inspections and Visits
While landlords need to respect their tenant’s privacy, someone who is looking to set up a meth lab wants to be left alone as much as possible. During the application process and when reviewing the lease agreement, landlords can let potential tenants know about the standard inspections and maintenance procedures.
It’s also a good idea for landlords to let tenants know that they know the neighbors well and how helpful they are in reporting any suspicious activities that go on in the neighborhood. This will make good tenants feel safer and troublemaking tenants more nervous. All this sends the signal that the landlord is not a hands-off manager and will be observing and entering as the law allows. Tenants are much less likely to set up a meth lab if they have a healthy fear of discovery.
Step 3. Be Observant of Any Clues
While no single activity or evidence points to an active meth lab, landlords must be observant when on the property and look for a combination of signs. Clues include lots of empty boxes for cold or asthma medication, chemical bottles, glass bottles with rubber tubing, chemical stains on dirt or concrete, dead grass, strong chemical smells, blacked out windows, new locks and late night activities.
Early intervention can prevent the most significant damage to a property and most police departments welcome any reports of suspicious activity, even if it turns out to be false.
Reduce the Odds of Meth Labs
The discovery of a meth lab in a rental property is devastating for landlord. Besides the health and wellness issues suffered by other tenants and neighbors, the financial impact is significant. From loss of income to paying for cleanup to struggling to re-insure and re-rent, it’s clear that meth labs in rental properties can have a serious effect on a property owner’s business. It’s important for landlords to do everything possible to discourage tenants from entertaining the idea that their rental property is a good place to set up a meth lab.