• Robyn Yousef is an Auckland writer

Methamphetamine smokers are wreaking havoc in our housing rental market. Along with a major shortage of properties, the number of properties needing decontamination this year is skyrocketing and the clean-up issue has created a burgeoning and questionable industry. A lot has been discussed about all the problems P smoking brings, but what about the real cost - in financial and psychological terms - to the owners of these properties?

In this one case I'm about to highlight, a former landlord who knew a tenant was a P smoker gave that person a glowing (excuse the pun) reference to the new landlord because he wanted the drug problem out of his own backyard.

My friend, who had inherited an original 1905 cottage in Auckland and was looking forward to moving it to a piece of land in Waihi, let the P smokers rent her place in light of this recommendation. It was only when neighbours started complaining about the endless flow of night visitors and noise that she decided to move her very well-spoken tenant on and have the house tested for P.


The results of the tests back in March were positive and instead of sitting back and enjoying her relocated home in Waihi (a house with a true emotional connection as it was owned by her grandparents), she is now reflecting on months of misery and expense.

In the meantime, the tenants had merrily moved on and probably are polluting yet another house - making it unliveable in these times when rental homes are needed so desperately.

My friend sent this letter to her former tenant. I think her words sum up the frustration and powerlessness of so many decent landlords out there:

"Hello Richard*, I thought you would be keen to hear an update on what happened over on the North Shore at the little cottage we entrusted to your care for a short time.

"My daughter, who was to move in, never could and had to make other arrangements with one day's notice after we got the dreaded results that it was contaminated with P.

"We have lost $400 per week rent since that time (March). Got a calculator?

"We have incurred testing costs of around $3500.

"I had to spend a lot of time chasing up the clean-up which was meant to happen while I was away on leave, but of course, did not.

"I missed my June window to have the cottage shifted to Waihi, and God knows when that will happen now as the ground is wet and further decontamination is required.

"We incurred a $15,000 clean-up cost. And there is more expense still to come.

"I spent countless hours organising the tests and clean-up (where do you go when prices vary so wildly and there is so much controversy about cowboys out there)? Then when the tests were done I had to chase up the results as of course, they had the wrong contact details.

"Following the decontamination, I've been informed that the main bedroom has failed the clean-up and looks like all the gib (redone only six years ago) has to be removed and replaced.

"Out went the stove, fridge, switchboard, carpets, curtains, light fittings and all internal doors. Pantry doors also. I have to replace!

"Now, I may be considered rather dense as to why I need to ask this, but what makes anybody think it's okay to do this to someone else's property? Your indulgent, illegal activity of smoking P should surely be put off until one has one's own house to contaminate? I didn't have children until I had a house to put them in. I feel guilty if I return a magazine to the library with a crumpled cover.

"Can you please enlighten me?"

My friend doesn't expect a reply, but I thought it was important to share her part in the cycle of misery P generates.

* Not his real name, although it should be to warn prospective landlords.