Landlords Beware: Methamphetamine Contamination is a Real Risk

Tom Willis

August 2016 . . . Methamphetamine is a Class A controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. It is commonly referred to as Meth, Crystal Meth, Ice or P.

The process of manufacturing Meth involves ‘cooking’ and releasing a range of highly dangerous and poisonous chemicals which releases toxic by-products. These toxic by-products can end up contaminating a dwelling. Contaminated homes and exposure to Meth chemicals can lead to liver or kidney damage, neurological problems, increased risk of cancer and respiratory problems.

Once Meth has been manufactured in a dwelling the chemical and toxic residue can seep into the carpets, furniture, gib, insulation and ventilation systems. It can linger there indefinitely unless the property is thoroughly decontaminated. The cost of the decontamination process can range from $5,000.00 to $50,000.00 depending on the extent and scope of the contamination. In worse case situations the only option is to demolish the property.

Meth contamination in State houses used as rental properties is a growing problem in New Zealand. According to Housing New Zealand Corporation (“HNZC”) 2014 statistics (arguably New Zealand’s largest landlord) out of 196 State houses tested by HNZC, 101 were contaminated with Meth.


The following is list of some of the typical characteristics that indicate a dwelling may have been subject to P-Lab activity:

  1. The property has frequent visitors or access denied to neighbours.
  2. The property has a history of the windows and curtains being shut throughout the day.
  3. There are sickly sweet or solvent smells present at the property.
  4. Discoloured ceilings and/or kitchen benches.


The remediation of a Meth contaminated house is not normally covered by your insurance policy. Landlords should check the scope of their insurance cover.

Landlords have a statutory obligation to address chemical hazards on their properties (Health Act 1956 and Section 55 of the Building Act 2004).

It is a breach of a Landlord’s obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1988 to provide premises that are not in a reasonable state of cleanliness.

If a property has been tested and is identified as having Meth contamination Councils must record this on the LIM for the property. Once this information is recorded on the Council file it will not be removed even if decontamination work is undertaken!!!

Landlords should consider investing in the installation of a Meth alarm system. Specialist companies can provide systems which monitor the property remotely via its network. An alarm system will monitor the atmosphere of the property and alert when it identifies the production of Meth.

It cannot be disputed that this is a real problem. It is naive to think that this issue is restricted to dwellings situated in low socio economic areas in North Island cities.