Globally, New Zealand has the highest rate of Methamphetamine use per head of population. Due to this reality, meth testing services are popular throughout the country. As a landlord you must be knowledgeable of meth testing protocol and tenant rights – or risk being stung with a sizeable bill!
Meth testing is imperative between tenancies
If you have a tenant who has come to the end of their tenancy and is moving on, you must get a meth test. Many landlords will believe they have a good idea of the character of their tenant and based on this, will choose not to conduct a meth test – this is a mistake.
Even if you have the model tenant who always pays their rent on time and takes great care of your property, you still need a meth test. Not because you think they or one of their friends have used the drug in the property, but so you have an accurate record for the property going into the next tenancy.
It is about creating a consistent, clean record of your property so you can avoid any future liability issues and disputes.
Liability issues & the need for proof
If you do not undergo a meth test at the beginning of a tenancy, you are liable for the actions of your incoming tenant. Because you have no definitive proof that your property was meth free at the beginning of the new tenancy, your tenant can commission their own test. If this test comes back positive the tenant can legally apply for damages – even if they were in fact the ones that used the drug!
Martin Donnelly, who heads the property management team at Ray White Ponsonby and Grey Lynn comments on the importance of managing liabilities as a landlord.
“As a landlord, you must minimise the risk on your investment. If you choose not to get a meth test before a new tenancy, you put yourself in a precarious position where you are essentially at the mercy of the tenant, regardless of whether they used the drug in the property or not”.
Dealing with positive readings below the safe level
If you do conduct the recommended meth test at the beginning of the tenancy, you put yourself in a strong position when results come back positive – even if these are below safe living levels.
“When landlords have a negative initial test and then a positive test at the end of the tenancy, but this result falls below the 1.5 safe level, the tribunal will usually determine that the tenant is responsible for the cost of cleaning the premises”, highlights Donnelly.
“They have still caused substantial damage to the property even though the damage poses no health risks to future tenants”.
Also important to note, clean ups can be ordered on a room by room basis, not necessarily affecting the entire property.
“The tribunal has also determined that if only one room is contaminated, this room can be sealed and cleaned and the weekly rental rate abates for this room alone – the entire property does not have to be cleaned”.
If you have any questions about the best ways to approach meth testing your rental property, get in touch with the experienced Auckland property management team at Ray White Damerell Group.