Meth and Property - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Meth and Property

Information about how meth labs affect property including real estate transactions, rental property, and when cleanup is necessary

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Was This Property a Meth Lab?

Several resources are available to help you find out if there was ever a meth lab on a specific property.

A property used in the manufacture of methamphetamine is “declared” a meth lab by local authorities. Usually police or sheriffs declare the property a meth lab while conducting a search or making an arrest. Sometimes the Community Health Board or one of its subparts will declare a property a meth lab.

When a property has been used in the manufacture of meth, but has not been declared a meth lab by local authorities, it is an “undeclared meth lab.”

The first step is to find out if the property is already listed as a known meth lab. This means the property was legally declared a meth lab by local authority.

If the property was declared a meth lab by local authority after January 1, 2006, it should be listed on the deed to the property. If this is the case, any remediation (cleanup) measures taken should also be listed on the deed and you will want to make sure to see that the proper remediation steps were taken.

Local Community Health Services Agencies (CHS) maintain lists of properties declared meth labs. If you want to check whether or not a property is on the list, contact the local health department serving that area.

MDH has a partial list of properties that were declared meth labs before January 2006. If you have not found the property listed as a meth lab on the deed or through the local health department, but you think it may have been declared a meth lab prior to 2006, you can contact the MDH Meth Lab Program to see if the property was listed in the past.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also maintains a register of clandestine labs across the country. You can check the lists on their website for the property that you are interested in.

If the property has never been legally declared a meth lab, it can be difficult to be certain whether it was a former meth lab or not. Local law enforcement may have information to help determine how likely it was to have been a meth lab.

Another option is to test the property for meth residue. You may test the property yourself or hire a remediation contractor to inspect the property and take samples for testing. MDH strongly recommends hiring a contractor to perform any sampling or remediation. See the Testing Process and Results section below for details. If you are renting, you need the owner's permission to conduct testing.

If meth use (not its production) is the only concern, the suspected harmful exposure is limited to the methamphetamine itself.

  • The property may be sampled for meth to find out how much is present.
  • There is minimal health risk when methamphetamine contamination does not exceed the California health-based cleanup standard.
  • If meth contamination measures above the California health-based cleanup standard, MDH recommends following the remediation steps in Clandestine Drug Lab General Cleanup Guidance (PDF) as closely as possible to reduce the risk from exposure to meth residue.

You can test for meth in one of two ways: hire a contractor or test yourself.

Professional remediation companies have personnel who are trained in testing procedures and can be hired to do meth testing. Hiring a contractor has several advantages. The contractor’s results will carry more weight in legal proceedings. Also, the contractor can help you understand what the results mean. The disadvantage of hiring a contractor is the cost.

  • Please contact the companies directly for cost estimates and timeline information: Contractor List

Testing yourself costs less, but the results are less reliable. There are two different types of test kits that you can buy over the internet: a wipe kit and a colorimetric kit.

With both kits you take a wipe sample. To do this, you apply a solvent (a liquid, like alcohol) to a test cloth. Then you wipe the wet test on the surface you are testing.

For the wipe kit, you mail the test cloth to a laboratory for analysis. The lab sends you the result expressed in micrograms of methamphetamine per 100 centimeters squared (µg/100cm2) area. The advantage of this type of kit is that you know what amount of meth is present on the tested surface. The disadvantage is that it takes a couple of weeks to get the result back.

For the colorimetric kit, you process the test cloth and get the result from a test stick (like a home pregnancy test stick). The colorimetric kits are pass/fail tests – a positive result means that meth is present above the kit’s sensitivity level. The kits come at several different sensitivity levels: 0.05 µg/100cm2, 0.1 µg/100cm2, 0.5 µg/100cm2, and 1.5 µg/100cm2. The 1.5 µg/100cm2 kit is probably the most useful since that is the California health-based standard for meth residue. The advantage of the colorimetric kit is that you get the results the same day. The disadvantage is that you can't determine the amount of meth present on the surface – you will only know if it is above or below the test stick’s level of sensitivity.

What your test results mean:

You are testing meth surface contamination samples for the concentration: the mass of meth found on a surface area.

  • The mass is measured in micrograms (µg, one-millionth of a gram).
  • The surface area is usually an area 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters (100 centimeters-squared or 100 cm2).
  • The California health-based standard for meth residue is 1.5 µg/100cm2.
  • If the measured meth level is below the California standard and the property was not declared a meth lab, cleanup is not necessary.

The California health-based standard (California standard) is 1.5 µg/100cm2. This number is based on a study of health effects of meth in children – the population most at risk to harm from meth residue. The meth concentration of 1.5 µg/100cm2 was determined to present minimal risk to children and, therefore, to all other groups potentially exposed. After a declared meth lab is remediated, the contractor must demonstrate that the level of meth present is below this standard for the property to be considered properly cleaned. If there has not been a declared meth lab, this standard can be used to determine whether or not there is a health risk to living in a property with potential contamination from meth use.

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Information for Real Estate Agents

According to Minnesota law, sellers are required to disclose if a property was used for methamphetamine production if they have knowledge of this activity. This disclosure is required in both the case of a declared or an undeclared meth lab situation. See: Declared vs. Undeclared Meth Labs
Along with that disclosure statement, the seller must inform the buyer of the following.

  • Whether local authority issued an order on the property that it must be properly remediated before it could be occupied (See: What is Cleanup/Remediation?)
  • Whether any orders issued were vacated upon completion of remediation
  • The status of removal and remediation on the property when there was no order issued, but the seller is aware that meth lab activity occurred.

This requirement can be found in 2017 Minnesota Statutes, section 152.0275, subdivision 2(m).

If the owner does not have intimate knowledge of the property’s history, you can use the following resources to determine whether the property used to be a meth lab. More details about options and resources for making this determination can be found in Was This Property a Meth Lab?

To find out if the property has ever been legally declared a meth lab:

If the property has never been legally declared a meth lab:

  • This can make it difficult to be completely certain if a property was a former meth lab. One good resource is to discuss the property with local law enforcement to determine how likely it was to have been a meth lab. Your local authority can be found at the following website:
    State and Local Government on the Net

With the owner’s permission, you can test a property for meth residue:

  • Professional remediation companies have personnel who are trained in testing procedures and can be hired to do meth testing. Please contact the companies (See MDH's Contractor List) directly for cost estimates and timeline information.
  • Home test kits are available online. MDH does not evaluate home test kits for effectiveness. Contact the manufacturers for specific information about test kits. Find descriptions, details, and help understanding the results in Testing Process and Results.

A property that was properly remediated should present minimal health risks to the occupants.

  • Look for affidavits filed on the deed that describe the remediation steps taken.
  • If you are unsure whether the property was remediated, you can get the owner's permission to test for meth residue. See Testing Process and Results for more information about testing.

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Information for Landlords

If your property - or a portion of your property - has been declared a meth lab, it is required that your property be cleaned according to the guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Find more information about cleanup requirements and your responsibilities in Cleanup Requirements and Information for Property Owners.

If you suspect there is an active meth lab on your property, you should familiarize yourself with the Ways to Recognize a Meth Lab. If you believe there is an active meth lab, do not enter the property. Notify local law enforcement so that trained lab responders can handle the situation.

If you are concerned that a current tenant operated a meth lab in the past:

Discuss the situation with local law enforcement to determine how likely it was to have been a meth lab and how they recommend you proceed.

You may test the property yourself or hire a hazardous waste contractor to inspect the property and take samples for methamphetamine testing.

  • Testing results must be below the California health-based cleanup standard for meth residue to present minimal health risk.
  • For details about how to test, see Testing Process and Results

If you suspect a meth lab, you may decide to have the property remediated.

  • MDH strongly recommends hiring a professional hazardous waste contractor to do the remediation and any pre- or post-remediation sampling. See MDH's Contractor List.
  • If you decide to perform the cleanup yourself, you should follow the remediation steps in the Clandestine Drug Lab General Cleanup Guidance (PDF) to the best of your ability.

If meth use (not its production) is the only concern, see Property Where You Think Only Meth Use Occurred for more information.

If meth is used or made in a rental property with multiple units, contamination can spread throughout the structure much like cigarette smoke does. Units adjoining the meth lab (up, down, front, back, left, and right) are the most likely to be contaminated. A contractor can use the exclusion criteria to find the bounds of the contamination and possibly limit the number of adjoining units that need to be remediated. Cleanup is always necessary in areas of the property where meth lab activity is known to have occurred even if test results show meth levels below the California standard.

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Information for Renters

If you are concerned about a possible meth lab:

You can test for meth residue.

  • There are at-home tests. These will tell you if there are meth levels above a certain threshold.
  • You can take wipe samples and send them to a lab to be analyzed. You will receive back a concentration of meth residue.
  • If your test results indicate that the meth levels are below the California health-based standard (1.5 µg/100cm2), there is minimal health risk to anyone living in the residence.
  • If your test results indicate that the meth levels are above the California standard, it is recommended that you follow the steps in MDH’s Clandestine Drug Lab General Cleanup Guidance (PDF) to the best of your ability to minimize potential health risk from contamination.

For additional information about testing, see Testing Process and Results

If you are concerned about a neighbor possibly making or using meth:

You can talk to your landlord, who is able to test the common areas of the property for meth residue.

Other resources that may be helpful:

If you are experiencing respiratory issues that you think may be caused by your home and want to discuss possibilities other than a meth lab, the MDH Indoor Air Unit may help you explore possible causes and remedies.

If you have children and you are concerned that the condition of your home is dangerous to their health, you can consider contacting County Protective Services for advice on how to proceed.

If you want details about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants:

Does the landlord need to inform me if the property I am renting used to be a meth lab?

No. There are a number of things a landlord doesn't have to disclose such as deaths, drug addictions, etc. Laws prohibit the landlord from renting an uninhabitable property. When a property has been declared a Meth Lab, the county declares the property uninhabitable only until the property has been remediated (see: What is Cleanup/Remediation?) according to the steps in the Clandestine Drug Lab General Cleanup Guidance (PDF). The cleanup steps should return a property to a habitable state. Excluding other issues, when a landlord rents a unit that was remediated, it should be habitable and no disclosure is required.

How do I clean up a house or apartment that may have been a meth lab?

For any meth contamination, the process discussed in MDH's Cleanup Guidance is a good method to use. The process is best carried out by a professional hazardous waste contractor, especially if the concern was the production of meth and not just meth use. If there was not a known meth lab in your home, but you are concerned about meth contamination and do not wish to hire a contractor, you can follow the steps in the Guidance to the best of your ability to significantly reduce risk. Particularly, steps such as washing your walls, ceilings, and surfaces with a detergent-water solution and replacing old carpets will help reduce risk from any residue left over from past meth use.
If you want to investigate further into whether or not your property was ever a meth lab, see Was This Property a Meth Lab?. You can also find additional details about cleanup at Cleanup Requirements.

How do I get my landlord to act when there is a meth lab or meth use in an adjoining unit?

See Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities from The Office of Minnesota Attorney General

What should I do if my landlord refuses to clean up the contaminated house or apartment I am renting?

Your landlord is required by law to remediate (clean up) the property if it was declared a meth lab or if testing shows meth levels are above the California standard (see What is the "California Standard" and What Does It Mean?). If your landlord knows or should have known about the contamination and does not make repairs in a reasonable time period, you may sue for rent reduction in small claims court. See Conciliation Court: A User's Guide to Small Claims Court from The Office of Minnesota Attorney General.

Updated Friday, November 02, 2018 at 02:54PM