Landlords Forced to Pay for Costly Cleanup

by Chris on June 25, 2012

Last month, the Dayton Daily News reported that legislation was introduced in the Ohio General Assembly that would require owners of properties used as meth labs to pay for thorough cleanup costs.

When meth labs are found in Ohio, local or state authorities perform an initial cleanup. However, that often is not enough to remove dangerous chemical residues that may be left behind.

The proposed legislation would develop new standards for cleaning the contaminated properties and an extensive cleaning to meet these standards would be billed to the property owners.

The costs of the cleanup will run into the thousands of dollars.

Some cities in northeast Ohio currently place a tax lien on properties where these dangerous clandestine laboratories are found.  

As federal funding for meth cleanup runs dry, other states are considering similar measures to make landlords liable for the cleanup. 

“A number of toxic chemicals are used in the production of meth.  These clandestine labs endanger not only the criminals manufacturing the drugs, but also others who may currently reside in the building or sometime in the future if these properties are not decontaminated,” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, a leading industrial hygiene and environmental testing laboratory.

“Chemicals used in meth labs include flammable and volatile solvents such as methanol, ether, benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane and toluene.  Muriatic acid, sodium hydroxide and ammonia may also be used. The only way to know the extent of any contamination is to conduct environmental testing,” he continued.

Police agencies across North America report that rental properties are the most common site for drug production. 

Methamphetamine is a potent synthetic drug that can be produced by cooking chemicals found in over-the-counter medications.  Landlords should take the time to familiarize themselves with the signs of a meth lab:

Occupants who go outside to smoke;
Strong urine-like smells of ammonia or acetone;
Cold tablet packages;
Jars containing clear liquids;
Coffee filters containing substances other than coffee grounds;
Rubber tubing;
Cookware with powdery residue;
Cans of camp fuel, fire starters or drain cleaners;
Batteries;
A collection of large soda bottles; or
Tenants who hide their trash.

Police also advice landlords to carefully screen tenants to avoid being victimized.  There have been reports of crime groups using impost0rs to apply for rental housing.  In one case, the fake applicant claimed to be a single father and toured the property with a child in tow.  The pair disappeared shortly after the lease was signed, and new occupants moved in.  Recently in Ohio, meth labs were found in homes with children.

When screening tenants, landlords should take steps to:

Verify the applicant’s identity;
Run tenant screening reports on each occupant; and
Check with the previous landlords.

Proper screening, coupled with routine property inspections can minimize the chance of an unexpected income loss.

If you suspect drug activity, contact the police.

For more information about meth cleanup, EMSL has sponsored a public service video on the environmental dangers of meth laboratories that can be viewed at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfdbuOp00Fg, or call EMSL at (800) 220-3675.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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