Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 26, 2014

Buyer beware: Meth-contaminated homes could be on the market

City officials combat onslaught of illegal drug labs, but home buyers still susceptible to toxic exposure.

(Continued)

“We can’t babysit these homes once they’re condemned,” he said. “We as police don’t have anything in it once we do the arrest or raid. We just seal them up the best we can.”

Milburn said city and county officials are discussing the best way to deal with meth houses, but there aren’t any easy solutions. Without guidance from the state, he said, counties are left to solve the problem.

“We’re trying to get a process in place so we don’t have these houses sitting around forever, but the law doesn’t account for it. It just doesn’t address it,” Milburn said. “ … Everybody knows that it’s messed up, but nobody knows how to fix it.”

Buyer Beware

Not every residence that housed a meth lab sits vacant, however. Milburn said 54 houses have been decontaminated since 2008, and the properties are open for habitation.

But officials only take action on the meth labs they catch. What about the houses authorities don’t know about?

“Any place where people are cooking or smoking meth is a public health hazard,” Milburn said. “But I can only deal with what I’m aware of.”

That leaves renters and homebuyers with the task of discovering whether a house has meth contamination, and Indiana law isn’t a helpful guide.

According to state statute, owners or Realtors are not required to disclose whether a house was used for the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance unless the buyer makes a “direct inquiry” into the matter.

Even then, the law only says sellers “may not intentionally misrepresent the fact concerning an … affected property.”

On the other hand, the home seller’s disclosure form required by the state asks owners to report to a potential buyer any hazardous conditions inside a house, including toxic materials, methane gas, asbestos or lead paint.

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