Meth testing standard in the works

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Big discrepancies in meth testing results are of grave concern to landlords, but official clarification is now on the horizon.

By Miriam Bell

Worry over meth contamination in rental properties continues to grow, fuelled by each new report of costly remediation and disaster due to P-using, or manufacturing, tenants.

But, as has reported, there is widespread confusion over the issue – particularly when it comes to the levels detected in testing and, in turn, what degree of remediation might be necessary.

For example, one reader said he got a property he was selling tested for meth contamination at the request of a potential purchaser.

The initial test returned a level of around 0.5, which is the Ministry of Health guideline limit.

This surprised him, so he commissioned a more extensive – and expensive – test, which returned a significantly lower reading of 0.02 throughout most of the house.

These results confused him and left him wanting an explanation of how the results could be so different, he said.

“If we, as clients, cannot trust these tests, then the amount of weight that has been put in them, due to the hysteria caused by the media attention given to this problem, perhaps has to be put into perspective.”

This type of situation does happen sometimes and there are a wide range of factors that can be variables, Meth Solutions director Miles Stratford said.

“Without knowing the particulars of the situation, it is hard to comment on specifics. However, both the numbers mentioned by the reader are low and are indicative of use related behaviour.”

Renovation is often the cause of apparent discrepancies in testing.

Stratford said that, in a renovated property, it can be as simple as different surfaces being sampled where the level of cleaning/renovation is different. 

“Surface level residues can vary and there is no way of knowing what lies behind the paint. The presence of any amount of meth creates uncertainty and this is exacerbated where renovation has taken place.”

In his view, the best thing an investor can do is to get sampling done prior to purchase or, if they already own a property, they should test before they renovate.

“This way, the certainty around any meth present is much greater and steps can be taken to address the situation.”

A lack of understanding about how testing works also often adds to the uncertainty many landlords feel.

Habitat Property Services director Alan Matteucci said there are different types of testing – from basic screening to extensive lab testing.

Within the different types of tests, different methods can be used, and this can make for differences in results.

"But I am very concerned about the accuracy of tests and the expensive remediation costs some owners are paying,” Matteucci said.

“It's an emerging and developing situation. More specific, or rather - considering the Ministry of Health's guidelines are already 174 pages long - more realistic, accurate, and reliable guidelines would be good.”

However, it seems that help is finally on the way.

Standards NZ principal advisor Bruce Taylor confirmed that a Standards Committee has been set up to address the issue of meth testing and remediation work.

The committee, which is not due to have its first meeting till June, will be developing a testing and remediation standard to try and ensure there is consistency in the process and throughout the industry.

Taylor said the full scope of the work has yet to be determined and the process is likely to take around 12 months.

“It will include a two month consultation period when there will be opportunity for public input on the draft document that the committee puts together.”

While a final standard is some way off, it should give landlords some reassurance that the issue was starting to be addressed, he added.

Comments from our readers

On 2 June 2016 at 5:44 pm Gutz said:
Hi Brett Carroll here I believe that was my comment you published above and I would like to comment further on Mr Stratfords statement about different levels found due to different cleaning methods being done during renovation. I would like to point out that the two tests that I had done were done on the same surface I had the property cleaned just prior to the first test being done and no one went into the property again until after the second test was carried out. The other thing I would like to comment on is his statement about both levels being low After the first test was done by the purchaser stating levels were around the 0.5 level The e mail from the tester stated that the agent should be notified and that no open homes should be carried out or anyone enter the property. If what he says is true that this is just low levels (which I in fact believe to be true) then the people who send e mails like that should perhaps be told to kerb their enthusiasm as it seems to me there is enough HYSTERIA surrounding this subject thanks for getting this subject out there because like asbestos and other things this has been blown out of proportion many thanks Brett Carroll

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