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Tips to identifying a meth lab in your rental property

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With an average of one meth lab being discovered a day in some states – Could your investment property be housing a meth lab?

The discovery of drug and meth labs across Australia is on the rise. In Queensland alone, police uncover an average of one clandestine meth lab a day in suburban rental properties.

Responsible property managers will take every measure to ensure your tenant is dependable and law abiding. However, small-time meth lab manufacturers are increasingly renting fresh properties as a base for their clandestine activities – so if they’re caught their own homes are not at risk.

Police reports show how criminals camouflage their intentions by creating a positive front in person and in their documentation. Seemingly perfect tenants can set up a drug lab in a new apartment or house soon after moving in. These ‘trojan horse tenants’ pay their money on time, dress respectably, and are next to impossible to detect as drug manufacturers.

The risk to your investment can be significant. The property will be unusable until the Health Department is called in to do a health check. And your usual cleaner can’t touch the mess – you’ll need specialist cleaners to clear up chemical or hazardous materials. In extreme cases, a serious explosion could occur in your property, resulting in significant damage and risk to life.

There’s even risk to your property value: property managers have suggested that in the future selling your property could prove more difficult.

So what can you do? Here are some ways to prevent your investment from turning into an illegal drug factory.

First look for these suspicious signs when you carry out your next property inspection:

  • Is there a large supply of glass jars and stainless steel bowls in the kitchen, and large quantities of rubber gloves?
  • Are there excessive quantities of cold and flu tablets stored in the bathroom cupboards?
  • Check for paint thinner, camp stoves and manure in the garage.
  • Have light bulbs been removed? Meth lab tenants may take them out to avoid the risk of a spark causing an explosion.
  • Are the walls discoloured? Is there rust on light fittings or door knobs?
  • Have the smoke detectors been turned off?
  • Are curtains always drawn or windows blacked out?
  • Have false walls been created?

There are also some warning signs in tenant behaviour. If they insist on paying cash, and if they seem to have a lot of visitors coming and going, you may want to investigate further.

These are obviously all things your property manager needs to be aware of.

If a clandestine drug lab has been going on for many months and the property manager hasn’t picked up on it, they could be sued by the landlord for damages. They could be liable for the landlord’s rent default or further loss of income, and future tenants could also sue them for potential personal injury due to the exposure to and effect of drugs picked up on their skin or person.

If they do identify a meth lab, the property manager should be protected by their Professional Indemnity insurance for any allegations of professional negligence.

And as a landlord, you need to be confident your Landlord Insurance provides specific coverage for the discovery of a meth lab or illegal drug house.

Aon’s Landlord Insurance includes coverage for chemical contamination as a result of the manufacture, storage or distribution of any controlled drug.

For further information contact your Aon Affinity Real Estate Client Relationship Manager, or call 1300 734 274.

© 2016 Aon Risk Services Australia Limited | ABN 17 000 434 720 | AFSL 241141. This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice (personal or otherwise) because your personal needs, objectives and financial situation have not been considered. So before deciding whether a particular product is right for you, please consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or contact us to speak to an adviser.

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