Illicit drug laboratories

Clandestine drug laboratory sites, commonly known as clan labs, are places where illegal drugs are manufactured. Criminal producers often use rental properties, although they also use commercial properties, remote rural properties and hotel and motel accommodation.

Clan labs pose a number of risks to human health, including exposure to the production residue of methylamphetamine (meth) and also from toxic and/or flammable gases illicit producers use to manufacture the drug. While the police may remove the raw chemicals and equipment from a property, contaminant residues can be absorbed into the building structure and furnishings.

Responsibility

If the buyer or tenant of a property becomes ill from exposure to a former clan lab, the real estate agency and owner could be at risk of legal action.

Pleading ignorance is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid proceedings.

Real Estate Agents and Property Managers

Consumer Protection regards the non-disclosure of known serious health hazards as a breach of the Real Estate and Business Agents and Sales Representatives Code of Conduct 2016 (Code).  Such hazards include any harmful chemical residue left at a residential property due to it having been used as a clan lab

Under the Code, real estate agents are required to ascertain material facts about any property they list.  While determining what constitutes a material fact may depend on the particular circumstances, a property’s previous use as a drug laboratory is likely to be a material fact given it may affect a prospective buyer /tenant’s decision to purchase/rent the property.

While agents and property managers cannot disclose what they don't know, they must take due care in ascertaining material facts about any property or business they sell or lease.

Lessors

Private landlords have a responsibility to ensure their property is safe for future occupants. If a tenant becomes ill from the effects of a clan lab, they may lodge a claim for compensatory damages.

Notification and Clean Up Process

Tenants should contact their landlord or property manager if they hold concerns that a property has been contaminated. If a tenant is unhappy with the response form their landlord or property manager, they should contact their local government authority.

Local government authorities determine whether properties are “fit for human habitation” under the Health Act 1911 (WA) and can order upgrades at the owner’s expense.  This includes decontaminating a former meth laboratory property to ensure it is cleared for habitation.

Property owners or their agents should follow the information outlined in the Western Australian Department of Health’s document: Guidelines for Notification and Risk Management after Detection of a Clandestine Drug Laboratory. This comprehensive document outlines the appropriate processes and procedures to address any health risks associated with clan labs.

Consumer Protection – Breach Notices & Complaint Process

Tenants who reside at a property they believe was formerly used as a clan lab have a range of options open to them.  Should the premises be uninhabitable (this applies to both periodic and fixed-term tenancies) and the tenant wants to end the agreement, the period of notice can be no less than two days.

A tenant can also seek an order from the Magistrates Court to end a fixed-term agreement if the lessor has not kept to any one of the terms of the tenancy agreement and refuses to fix the problem.

When a tenancy ends section has plenty of information on ending a tenancy and how issue the appropriate notices. You may also call our advice line on 1300 304 054 if you require more information on your rights.

If you are the buyer of a residential property, or if you are a tenant, and you believe a real estate professional failed to disclose the property you bought/rented was used as a clan lab, you may choose to lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection.

Further information:

You may find more detailed information on drug labs at the following websites:

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