New Ohio Law Requires Meth Lab Disclosure to New Owners

houses must disclose meth labs, says Ohio billTurns out crystal meth, a synthetic illegal drug that is extremely destructive to humans, is almost as bad for home values. And the chances that meth has been produced in your dream house are greater than you might think.

It's normally hard to detect, but meth residue can produce highly toxic fumes. So how will you know if tweakers used your future home as an illegal drug lab?

In Ohio, a new law requires owners to disclose to their real estate agents whether the harsh synthetic street drug has ever been manufactured in their home before putting it up for sale. Motor vehicles are also covered in the bill. The Ohio House unanimously passed the Methamphetamine Awareness and Notification Act on May 20. It is awaiting a vote from the Ohio Senate.

One glance at public awareness campaigns such as the sensationalist Faces of Meth will give you a good sense of the dangers associated with the drug. But it's unclear whether a law meant to restrict sales of meth-tainted properties will be effective, or whether it is even necessary.
The process of cooking meth releases highly toxic fumes that can linger in a home for years.

Meth is typically made with over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous and hydrochloric acid. Other nasty fillers include drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel and antifreeze. The ingredients are "cooked" to produce powder or crystals.

The Methamphetamine Awareness and Notification Act would also create a public online database of meth-tainted properties. This may be why the bill, introduced three years ago, has languished.

To begin with, it's not clear how long a property would be included in this database, or what could be done to remove it. More questions linger: Who would dictate the cleaning standards? Who would shoulder the legal risk of giving a property a clean bill of health if it is later discovered to still be toxic? And would a listed "meth house" all but destroy any potential for rental income or resale?

If a homeowner's property was mistakenly listed, it could be devastating to the home's value.

The Methamphetamine Awareness and Notification Act now moves to the Ohio Senate. It is being supported by local law enforcement, as well as local Realtors. The disclosure notices would join a host of other lengthy health disclosures including lead-based paint, radon, and other potential environmental exposure.

But it's worth nothing that meth production is just one criminal activity that can wreck a home. Cannabis production can also trash homes, thanks to elevated moisture levels and general abuse, as was the case in a recent story out of England.

Ideally, a thorough home inspection should turn up any serious air-quality issues. And specially trained home cleaning services can often rid a home of any toxic substances and their effects.

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