Two Hawke's Bay real estate agents are refusing to follow new, "totally wrong" national guidelines because they believe it will result in people unknowingly buying P houses.
After a report from the Prime Minister's chief science advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, found there was no evidence of adverse health effects from third-hand exposure to methamphetamine smoke residue, the industry's governing body, the Real Estate Authority, issued new guidelines requiring sales agents only to disclose knowledge of high-level meth contamination readings.
Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today, Tremains managing director Simon Tremain said his agents would not be following those guidelines - adding he was "certainly" prepared to walk away from potential sales if need be.
"They are now telling us 'not to disclose' to buyers properties that have tested positive for meth if the reading is under 15mcg.
"This is totally 'wrong' and we will not be following their guideline.
"I'm concerned that we will sell a property to somebody that's had a positive meth test [below 15mcg] and it hasn't been disclosed, and then they find out later about it and want to know why it wasn't disclosed - and that then ultimately and materially affects the person that might want to buy that property from them."
He said, as it stood, if a vendor asked an agent not to disclose a reading below 15mcg, the agent would either have to decline to market the property and let it go to another agent or to market it without disclosing the information.
Tremains were prepared to pass on sales rather than withhold information from buyers "at this stage", he said.
His stance was backed by Ray White Hawke's Bay managing director Elanor MacDonald.
"Our position at this stage is exactly the same as Tremains'.
"We will be disclosing at any level, which we have been doing, and that was our position prior.
"The only real change in what we do will be to do with the health and safety aspect.
"Previously, any property that came back with a reading of over 1.5mcg before, we would stop showing it to the public until it had been de-contaminated."
That range might be extended to 15mcg.
She said the REA had changed its guidelines but there had been no change in National Health Guidelines.
It was still unclear whether the new level would remain in place, given other OECD countries maintained a level over 0.5mcg was a health risk, MacDonald said..
"We'll be sticking with the status quo because, under the act, we are required by law to disclose anything that 'in law or in fairness' a purchaser should be informed about - and I think this is something a buyer would think, in fairness, should be disclosed."
The new REA guidelines stated methamphetamine contamination of 15mcg per 100cm2 or above was considered a property defect which must be disclosed to potential buyers.
However, it was also stated "you do not have to disclose test results below 15 micrograms per 100cm2 unless specifically asked by a prospective buyer or where a prospective buyer has clearly shown an interest in methamphetamine contamination".
Disclosure was also not required when a property had tested above 15mcg but then been successfully remediated.
"As with any disclosure, you should discuss the issue with your vendor before making any disclosures," REA chief executive Kevin Lampen-Smith said.
Bayleys Hawke's Bay operations manager Kerry Geange said the "issued guidelines do contain some ambiguity" but its agents would continue to meet "all minimum compliance standards".
"This will involve disclosure of information where appropriate, and making purchasers aware of their legal and personal rights to ensure they get all information on a property prior to entering into a contract to purchase."
Property Brokers regional manager Paul Whitaker said the company had not yet formed an opinion on what it would tell its agents to do.
"I think at the moment we are still trying to take stock of the direction from the industry and we are waiting for further evidence before we make a decision whether it has health implications or not.
"Our message is if it's something they think is important, the public just have to ask the agent and the agent will have to tell them if there is any meth present."
Real Estate Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell said, as the industry regulator, the REA would apply its new guidelines when dealing with complaints against real estate agents that relate to meth disclosure.
Buyers were advised to study the report and seek legal advise during the purchasing process.
"As every purchaser will have their own view on what is an acceptable level of meth contamination, we recommend that purchasers do their own due diligence, read the Gluckman report, the REA's guidance for consumers and the NZ Standard, and take legal advice on the issue when purchasing property."