Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

P labs leave costly stink

Homeowners seek compensation for thousands of tainted properties.

Zita Cameron, her husband Anthony Cameron and their daughter Alexia Cameron, 3.
Zita Cameron, her husband Anthony Cameron and their daughter Alexia Cameron, 3.

A leading property firm is setting up a team to fight for compensation over houses that have been contaminated by methamphetamine.

National valuation company Prendos was first to highlight the leaky homes crisis in the mid-1990s. It now says that hundreds of millions of dollars could have been wiped off the value of residential properties used as P labs.

Prendos director Gordon Edginton said the firm had set up a specialist section for people who have lost money on a meth-contaminated home, after noting a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help and advice.

"It is believed that in the past 15 years up to 20,000 properties in the Auckland region alone could be affected," Edginton said. "That would equate to about $600 million being lost as these properties become stigmatised.

"The situation is reminiscent of when the leaky homes debacle first started to break." Edginton said reparation could come from vendors, insurance companies and the Government - or from cash or assets seized as proceeds of crime.

Edginton also called for an accessible national database to record meth-affected properties.

Police currently notify councils about addresses contaminated by meth and this is noted on property files. Real-estate agents must also disclose the presence of contamination if they are aware of it.

Miles Stratford, from the Auckland Regional Methamphetamine Working Group, wants a national scheme similar to the Earthquake Commission's agency.

However, Housing Minister Nick Smith is ruling out Government intervention, saying if it bailed out people whose properties had been affected by P it would take some of the responsibility off owners and landlords to keep a close eye on their tenants and properties.

Family home tainted by drugs

Zita and Anthony Cameron have kissed goodbye to about $385,000 since the family home they rented out was used as a P lab.

The Camerons - who have five kids - planned to return to their eight-bedroom home in Alfriston, South Auckland after two years working in Tauranga.

Instead they were plunged into a nightmare when police raided the Auckland property in July 2010 and one of the tenants was jailed for making meth. The Camerons then sold the house for far less than it would have returned had it not been tainted by drugs.

"The market value was about $1.1million but it went for $715,000," Zita said. "The fact the house had been contaminated by meth was put on the Lim report and that devalued it significantly."

Zita said they were still struggling to recover. The large family now lives in a three-bedroom house. "My kids keep asking if we will ever have a home as nice as our old one and it is heartbreaking, the chances are we won't. People should be properly compensated for something like this."

- Herald on Sunday

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