The Tragic Risk of Drug Production in Rental Properties

Typical hydroponic marijuana set-up (Photo - Internet)

For many years, marijuana has been the drug of choice for most people using illegal drugs in Australia. It therefore stands to reason that it has also been the drug of choice for tenants, particularly those from lower socio backgrounds. However marijuana has been overtaken as the drug of choice by a very serious and sinister ‘competitor’.

Methamphetamine use has increased rapidly because of its intake convenience, and differing ‘high effect’. Further and most importantly, producing methamphetamine has proven easy, extremely cost effective and profitable. Methamphetamine or ‘meth’ (as it is more commonly known) includes well known drugs like ‘speed’, ‘fantasy’, ‘ecstasy’ and the more frightening, relatively new drug ‘ice’ which is a pure form of meth.

In places like Adelaide, we have a real problem with hydroponically grown marijuana (Adelaide supplies much of Australia with marijuana), as well as the growing problem of backyard meth or clandestine laboratories. The damage caused by hydroponic marijuana production inside a rental property is enormous with holes being ripped into floors, walls and ceilings, along with water damage and wiring in the property damaged and tampered with.

However meth production has much more serious consequences because of the creation and disposal of toxic waste, the bi-product of the production process. This is often thoughtlessly poured down toilets and drains and spread through gardens and yard areas. People producing these drugs are only motivated by greed or their own drug induced needs. They do not take into consideration that any toxic waste can severely affect others for many years to come. They just dispose of the waste in the most convenient way that suits them, and only them!

Ecstasy Pills (Photo - Internet)

For every kilogram of methamphetamine produced there is up to 5 or 6 kilograms of potentially harmful toxic waste. The waste that remains at the property can cause problems for the health and well being of future tenants and occupants.

In some parts of the United States authorities take toxic waste contamination so seriously that houses are permanently condemned and bulldozed after a clandestine laboratory has been discovered and closed down by police.

In Australia, meth production in rental properties not only affects future occupants but also property values. We are yet to see legislation changes coming in that will greatly hinder the use of a property (like in the United States) until it is legally deemed ‘clean’.

Other real problems that can affect our industry and clients are:
• Rent loss after eviction and the period of time to repair the damage.
• Bad word of mouth from landlords about their property manager - they will no doubt tell quite a few people about the property manager who put drug dealers in their property (whether or not it was the property manager’s fault!).
• Toxic contamination, and resultant clean-up interruption and possible damage from police raids.
• Property values reduced in neighbourhoods considered to have a reputation for producing and dealing drugs.

Therefore as property managers we must be watchful for the warning signs of illicit drug production so we can get on top of a potential problem quickly.


 Explosion and Property Fire Risk

Another shocking consequence of methamphetamine production is that a build up of fumes can literally explode as they are unstable. In the image above, we see the destructive force of a drug lab explosion. In this case, a drug lab explosion caused two brick walls to be destroyed and hurled bricks 25 metres into a neighbouring yard.

I have also seen pictures from the United States of a house literally blown up by fumes caused by the cooking and producing of cannabis oil. The house looked like it got hit by a category five tornado!

The article above illustrates the fire hazards that exist with hydroponically grown marijuana crops in a property.

In these types of drug production set-ups, wiring can be tampered with resulting in electrical problems possibly causing a fire with considerable damage to the property.

Clearly, in every respect - drug production in our rental properties is bad news all round!

We must learn to recognise early the warning signs of drug production so we can reduce possible damage to the property and to our reputation but most importantly, so that we as property managers do not walk into a potentially lethal situation.

Therefore learning, knowing and understanding these warning signs is crucial as professional property managers so I ask that you spend quality time going through this list of potential signs that illegal activity is indeed happening in your rental property.

Rainwater tank used to grow drugs (Photo - Darren Hunter)
Electrical wire tampering in a tool shed (Photo - Darren Hunter)

Click here for Part Two for the warning signs of illicit drug production.

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