At least two Hawke's Bay real estate agents are refusing to follow new, "totally wrong" national guidelines because they will result in people unknowingly buying P-contaminated houses.
After a report from the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, found there was no evidence of adverse health effects from third-hand exposure to methamphetamine residue, the industry's governing body, the Real Estate Authority, issued new guidelines that only require sales agents 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 effects the person whot might want to buy that property from them."
He also pointed out that, 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.
"At this stage" Tremains were prepared to pass on sales rather than withhold information from buyers, 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 decontaminated."
That range might be extended to 15mcg.
However, she also pointed out that while the REA had changed its guidelines, there had been no change in National Health Guidelines.
It was still unclear if the new level would stick, given other OECD countries maintained that a level over 0.5mcg was a health risk.
"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 state methamphetamine contamination of 15mcg per 100cm2 or above is considered a property defect that must be disclosed to potential buyers. However, they also state "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 if 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 while the "issued guidelines do contain some ambiguity", 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.