Pre-tenancy meth testing

Question from Gen updated on 20th October 2017:

With so much uncertainty about the meth testing standards, is it prudent for a landlord to get meth testing done at the beginning and end of each tenancy and for the property manager to require this in their rental management authority with a landlord?

Our expert Bernard Parker responded:

The methamphetamine problem is in New Zealand, as much as it is anywhere else, and no sector of society is immune. The problem that every homeowner faces, as does every landlord, is the risk that somebody will use methamphetamine in the house, thereby contaminating it.

The level of tolerance for meth contamination has been set by Standards New Zealand recently, and all landlords are well advised to be wary of a couple of risks:

1. Many insurance companies are limiting the claimable amount in the event of meth contamination requiring remediation. Some companies limit claims to around $25,000. Beyond that the property owner foots the bill.

2. If a meth test has been done prior to the start of tenancy the tenant is aware of a benchmark test having been done and a clearance given by the pre-tenancy test. That means that any subsequent positive test will result in the tenant being responsible and, therefore, a target for the owner’s insurance company for recovering any claim payments.

3. The big issue, however, is the property where NO pre-tenancy test has been done. In those circumstances any contamination cannot be proven to have happened during the tenancy, and a landlord is open to a cross-claim from a tenant for failing to provide a safe home.

4. Current legislation before Parliament will reinforce a testing regime. The Bill contains provision for rent abatement for any room that is meth contaminated UNLESS the tenant is found to be responsible. That presupposes that a means of comparison must be available from the start of the tenancy.

In short, the rental property industry appears to be heading towards formal meth testing at the start and the end of each tenancy. For this reason it is a good idea to do the same.

Bernard is principal of Quinovic – Kapiti-Mana. Quinovic's outstanding people and systems provide the most professional, effective and reliable residential property management service in the NZ market for over 30 years.

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