While our traditional ParcelQuest product appeals primarily to businesses who regularly require updated parcel data and GIS Maps, the world of real-estate information in which we ‘play’ has, at times, particular appeal to the average consumer. Such is the case when we made the decision earlier this year to partner with DisclosureSave (A leading provider of Natural Hazard Reports) in order to make NHD reports available to our existing clients on our website.
When we stumbled upon a recent article on the web (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/mystery-illness-solved-family-discovers-home-meth-lab-184815233.html) regarding Jonathan and Beth Hankins – who had recently purchased a foreclosed home that, unbeknownst to them, had been used by its former owner as a meth lab, we gained a better sense for how the information we provide our business clients can be used to both inform and, in the case of the Hankins family, potentially warn the consumer community.
For those not familiar with Natural Hazard Disclosure (NHD) reports, under California law a seller of real property (and their agent) is legally required to disclose when the property in question lies within one or more state or locally mapped hazard areas. According to Sec. 1103 of the California Civil Code, there are six (6) geologic hazard zones that each NHD report is mandated to disclose. They are:
- A flood hazard zone as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- An area of potential flooding after a dam failure (also known as a ‘dam failure inundation area’)
- A high fire hazard severity zone
- A wildland fire area (also known as ‘state fire responsibility area’ or ‘SRA’)
- An earthquake fault zone
- A seismic hazard zone
In addition to disclosing the six (6) geologic hazard zones, each of ParcelQuest’s NHD reports also provide Local Disclosures, Military Ordnance and Mold Supplement, and Meth Lab & Database Disclosure (Megan’s Law) – which brings us back to the point of this post……
The article states that within days of moving in to their home, Beth began experiencing breathing problems while Jonathan experienced migraine-like headaches and nosebleeds. That’s when their new neighbor shared the bad news: The house they just purchased was a former meth house. Expedited lab results revealed contamination levels in the home nearly 80 times above Oregon Healthy Authority Limits.
Purchasing a foreclosed home from Freddie Mac meant the family was informed about being responsible for detecting hazards like paint and asbestos, but there was no warning from real estate agents or Freddie Mac about prior drug activity taking place in the home. And because the couple bought the home ‘as-is’, they decided to skip a traditional inspection. But here’s the real kicker – while a traditional inspection would have exposed any of a number of small physical repairs needed, the inspection would not have detected the chemicals that are used to cook crystal meth, as the toxins are completely invisible.
Homes that have been busted and recorded as former meth-labs should absolutely be disclosed to a future buyer, but as Joe Mazzuca of Meth Lab Cleanup states, “scores of home buyers are at risk because only one in 10 meth labs are [actually] busted.” At other times, he states, “information can fall through the cracks by the time a big bank or government agency gets past the red tape of selling a foreclosed home”. By the time a bargain-based foreclosed home is purchased, it may be too late as decontaminating a former meth lab can run anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000, according to experts. In the case of the Hankins family, they say they’ve been quoted a clean-up cost more than what they paid for the home.
The morale of this story, as Joe Mazzuca states in the article, is for home buyers to do their due diligence prior to finalizing their transaction – especially in cases where a foreclosed home is involved. In addition to purchasing a Natural Hazard Disclosure report, it’s important to also:
- Check the DEA’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register
- Talk to the property’s neighbors.
- Contact the local health department and police for past issues, and
- Buy a test to test for chemicals.