The latest news for New Zealand Landlords and Tenants
The last thing any landlord ever wants to hear is that their property has tested positive for methamphetamine contamination. It’s time-consuming, costly, and can cause conflict between landlords and tenants when it comes to taking action.
While you should always test your home before the start of a tenancy, there are also other steps you can take to avoid meth contamination or identify it early.
If you do fail to test your property prior to new tenants moving in, this can be a problem. The reason for this is that you can’t pinpoint who is responsible and when it occurred. Without this insight, it’s difficult to act. If you want to avoid meth contamination and respond to it early on, here are some things you can do.
What does my insurance cover?
Check your policy
Before you even enter the rental market, you should check to see what your insurance covers and if it includes meth contamination. New insurance policies have recently been released in relation to meth contamination claims. These outline new obligations for landlords who want to be covered should contamination occur.
Insurance companies will often cover the cost of:
- repairs and cleaning
- relocating tenants while the property is cleaned
As testing can cost over two-thousand dollars, it is important to have a policy that protects you from meth contamination. Also be aware that even if your insurance company covers cleaning costs, it’s possible they may not cover all of it.
What can I do to protect me and my property?
Before you choose your tenants, there are some steps you can take to protect you and your property. Calling references that are past landlords and conducting the correct pre-tenancy checks are two of these. While a credit check can provide detailed information about their credit history, a background check can identify past Tenancy Tribunal cases and more. You might also want to check your insurance policy to see what your responsibilities are when it comes to choosing tenants. Often, calling references and doing credit checks is expected. This is the case with most IAG, State, and AMI policies.
Conduct inspections and look for warning signs
Keep an eye out for warning signs during inspections, things like:
- weird chemical smells
- yellow stains on the carpet or floor, walls and ceiling, and
- large amounts of cold medicine packets lying around.
There will likely be signs that something isn’t right, and regular inspections will help to ensure that you find out about it sooner, rather than later. New insurance policy changes actually require quarterly inspections to have contamination claims approved so bear this in mind.
For more information about meth contamination warning signs see the Police website.
Contact the police
If you suspect that your tenants are manufacturing meth, contact your local police station. Have any information ready that you think they’ll need such as notes from past inspections.
If you find that your property is being used as a ‘clan lab’, contact the police. As methamphetamine is an incredibly dangerous drug, do not:
- touch, taste, or smell any equipment or chemicals
- attempt to turn power or water off
- use cellphones, torches, or any device near the area
Call the police and do not go inside.
Test for meth
If you think your property might be contaminated, you will need to arrange a test with a certified testing agency – something that you should be doing at the end of every tenancy. Receiving a positive meth test is bad news, but doing so after more than one tenancy can make the issue so much more difficult for everyone involved. You need to be able to prove which tenant it was. You can’t just assume it was the most recent tenant.
If you want to test while your tenants are still in your property, you will need to get them to agree to it being done. Otherwise, you can be at risk of breaching their right to quiet enjoyment of the property. This could cost you up to $2,000 in fines.
Put a clause in your tenancy agreement
It’s a good idea to consider putting a clause in the tenancy agreement about meth testing and what the tenant’s responsibilities are when it comes to this. This may include allowing you to test the property during their tenancy.
If you’ve carried out meth tests that are in accordance with regulations and have discovered your property is uninhabitable at no fault of the current tenant, then the tenant will no longer need to pay rent. This will stand until the tenancy is terminated or the property is decontaminated and safe to live in again.
If the tenant decides to terminate the tenancy, they only need to give 2 days notice, and as the landlord, you only need to give 7 days notice. Once you have an empty property, you can go ahead and begin the decontamination process. The degree to which your property needs to be cleaned will depend on how badly it was contaminated. This is something you will need to discuss with the company cleaning your property. When you’re picking a company, it’s definitely worth trying to be cost-effective, but making sure that you’re using a reputable company that is going to do a good job is vital.