Mandurah landlord warns meth-contamination not covered by insurance

Meth contamination: A cleaner decontaminating a garage with chemical foam. Photo: Meth Lab Cleaners Australia.
Meth contamination: A cleaner decontaminating a garage with chemical foam. Photo: Meth Lab Cleaners Australia.

A Dudley Park home owner has had to fork out nearly $10,000 for testing and decontamination on top of a $50,000 repair bill after tenants used methamphetamine at his property.

"I was shocked," said the owner, who can't be named for legal reasons.

"I had no idea this is something that could happen or that it was so common here."

When the property owner decided to put his house in the hands of a real estate agent to rent it out, he was advised by his insurer to take out landlord's insurance to protect his asset, which he did, assuming he would be covered for most eventualities.

"I thought I was doing all the right things," he said.

"There was never any mention of meth use at the property not being covered.

"I thought the clause for malicious damage would cover such things.

"I really feel insurance companies should tell people up front that this isn't covered."

The owner only realised there might be a problem with his house after attending the final inspection in June and smelling a strange chemical odour.

He mentioned it to a friend, an engineer and building inspector in Perth, and was advised to get it tested.

However, according to the owner of a business who tests and decontaminates properties, Tony A'Court, one of the biggest problems with meth is the fact that it normally doesn't leave a smell.

"One of the biggest issues is there are no smells or stains from meth use - that there are is a misconception," Mr A'Court explained.

"You get an itchy feeling like ants biting you or hay fever symptoms.

"People move into a house and they develop hay fever symptoms but don't realise it could actually be caused by meth."

If there is a chemical smell Mr A'Court said it was likely to be a sign of a small-scale production method known as 'shake and bake' where a plastic container such as a milk bottle is filled with ingredients, heated and shaken to make small batches of the drug.

He said this was usually done outside and burn marks in the garden were another sign to look out for.

He said his business dealt with about 15-20 properties on average per month in the Peel region, but the problem was likely to be far wider reaching because meth could be hard to detect.

Mr A'Court also said only about 30 percent of the houses his company worked on were rentals and the rest were mortgagees.

"I would also say to anyone who has their house decontaminated to make sure they get the latest lab results from the company and that the number is 0.5 or lower; and also to get a contractor's clearance certificate.

"This means that if you rent or sell the property and it's found not to be completely clear of meth, it's the cleaning company who are liable, not you."

The owner of the Mandurah property who has been left with the huge clean-up bills, said he was now in a bad situation but hoped others could be spared his dilemma.

"I'm in a terrible position," he said.

"People have this preconceived idea that all landlords are rich. I'm not rich. This was my one way of providing for the future of my young daughter.

"Now I'm out of pocket thousands of dollars and nobody seems to be able to help.

"I just want other people to be aware of the risk and for them not to get caught in my position."