Methamphetamine contamination of residential property In New Zealand : the property law and insurance law implications. (2018)
AuthorsWarren, Kateshow all
Methamphetamine is not a new drug, nor is chemical contamination in residential property a new phenomenon. Rental accommodation, particularly social housing, is one of the main target areas for those looking to consume or manufacture methamphetamine, although hotel rooms, rental vehicles, and commercial properties are not immune.
Knowledge of the direct and indirect effects of chemical byproducts left behind in properties following consumption or manufacture is becoming clearer. With increased information available on the harmful effects of illegal substance residue and better testing technology available, the issue and its prevalence in New Zealand is now widely accepted. Over the last few years, New Zealand media has emphasised the extent of the problem. However, until recently, there has been very little policy, regulation and case law available as guidance for property owners.
The risk of methamphetamine contamination should be of concern to everyone. This is because anyone may potentially be affected. Tenants rent previously contaminated homes, exposing family, guests and possessions to drug residue. Landlords face the possibility of having to go to great expense to decontaminate and remediate methamphetamine damage. Mortgagees lend against properties which may be contaminated and subsequently reduced in value. Insurers need to assess the risk and set premiums and restrictions accordingly. Business-owners in many different industries face the possibility of employment issues where cleaners are exposed to contaminated rental vehicles and rooms. Real estate agents are tasked with marketing and selling potentially contaminated properties. And residents across the country must face the economic effects and stigma of living next door to a “drug house”. In addition, the drug burdens society with associated healthcare and criminal justice costs. The effects of methamphetamine permeate New Zealand society.
The wide array of issues and means by which people may be affected highlight the need for further research to consider the problem in New Zealand and how it might be best addressed. A better understanding of the issue is required to inform analysis of New Zealand’s current responses to the problem of methamphetamine contamination in residential property by government and other agencies. As the problem is not unique to New Zealand, the adequacy of our legislation and policies, in light of comparisons with international legislation and developments, require analysis and recommendation for advancement.
There is an increasing prevalence in the housing market of reliance on rental accommodation. Landlords are required to provide tenants with a safe and healthy home. To achieve this, they need to meet requirements set out by various laws and bylaws. However, with an increase in demand and, at least in Christchurch post-quake, a reduction in supply landlords are arguably in a stronger position to offer substandard housing to desperate tenants.
It is important that our insurance policies, testing standards, regulations and laws are tailored to specifically target the issue and that they are not made to “fit” under other more general categories. This is to prevent: uncertainty; expense in decontamination where it is not required; liability of landlords where they are unsure; and the possibility of exposing tenants to the health risks of methamphetamine and chemical residue.
Although much of New Zealand’s insurance law stems from the common law from as early as 1908 our legislature has intervened. It is clear that the legislation has not maintained pace with the evolving property and insurance issues, predominantly in residential tenancies. There is currently no specific legislation in New Zealand addressing the problems faced by those encountering the effects of methamphetamine contamination. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) is currently under review and will, if enacted, provide further clarification not only in respect of methamphetamine contamination but in terms of many forms of contamination.
This thesis aims to gather information from New Zealand’s main finance providers, insurers, social housing provider, councils and regional council’s such as Environment Canterbury to discover whether our standards, best practice and legislation are adequate to deal with the effects of methamphetamine on property. In light of this information, and a review of overseas legislation and initiatives in this area, our current and proposed authorities in respect of dealing with the issues stemming from methamphetamine contamination will be evaluated and options to further develop this area will be proposed. The purpose of this research is to record the problems that arise from methamphetamine in our society in an insurance and property law context. It is hoped that in highlighting the predicament of residential landlords and tenants in New Zealand, lessons can be learned, and change brought about to alleviate the problems faced by these parties in a world where illicit substance use is ever increasing and causing destruction.