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Meth-labs and HI liability


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Still more stuff to worry about.....

This has been a topic @ a couple ASHI conference; the one I sat in on was very educational.

If I were to summarize my take on the topic, it would go something like;

If there is something that looks like a lab, w/bottles, tubing, ammonia, empty cough syrup bottles, etc., it's probably a lab. Call the police.

If the place WAS a lab, and has been completely cleared out and the only remnant is residue, we probably won't know the difference.

Is that childishly simplistic, or reasonably accurate?

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If a meth-lab gets missed, and the buyer purchases the home, under the new Colorado regulation, the buyer would be on the hook for the entire cleanup. Their means to relief would be to subrogate their liability via third party law suits. Who do you imagine would be named in that law suit?

So homeowners have no responsibility if they do not disclose? I thought under Federal laws a cleanup can go back as far as three owners. I have no idea if this is true, but I have heard something like this.

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Scott and Kurt –

Imagine this scenario –

Mr. & Mrs. Jones are wonderful people and have been landlords for 20 years. Now they want out, and they are selling their three rental properties. Good timing because all three properties are vacant. The houses go on the market.

The Smith family, with their three kids, take an interest in the house on 12th and Main; put out a contract, an HI performs a very good inspection, finds a few things that get cleared up and the Smiths move in.

Three month latter, the infant comes down with respiratory distress and cognitive disabilities. The family M.D. says the symptomology is consistent with methamphetamine exposure. The Smith’s check the police records and cannot find any record of police activity at the residence. Smith’s hire the bad guy (you know, the industrial hygienist), who goes into the house and based on only a visual inspection, without even having to collect a single sample, finds considerable iodine indicators suggesting contamination and concludes there was a meth-lab in the property. The industrial hygienist then performs confirmatory sampling and determines that there is considerable meth/cocaine residue in the house.

The Smiths wonder, “Well, how come the Home Inspector missed what the industrial hygienist could see without sampling?â€

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Points all well taken. Barring the iodine indicators, are there any other telltales if the place has been cleared out?

IOW, how the heck can we know if there is residue w/out performing a clean sweep of the property which is wildly beyond the scope of a basic home inspection?

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Hello Kurt -

Depending on the degree of cleaning, and cosmetic painting to cover-up stains, etc, some properties appear to be pristine -

Barring the iodine indicators, are there any other telltales if the place has been cleared out?

Not many, and fewer still available to non-law enforcement. However, even if the place has been thoroughly cleaned, there are still a few remaining signs:

1) Unusual quantities of "cat litter" scattered in the yard

2) Yellow staining/ghosting

3) Persistent odour of urine

4) Unusually high utility bills

5) Unusual repairs/ structural modifications

And then finally, the que of nervous shady-looking characters with one hand always in a pocket, and ready hundred dollar bills in the other.

Very frequently, the neighbours will approach and whisper something in your ear.

I wonder if the HI’s professional orgs could pass state-by-state indemnity legislation that would provide liability immunity to Home Inspectors?

Cheers,

Caoimhín P. Connell

Forensic Industrial Hygienist

http://members.aol.com/fiosrach/main.html

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

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Originally posted by Caoimhín P. Connell

I wonder if the HI’s professional orgs could pass state-by-state indemnity legislation that would provide liability immunity to Home Inspectors?

Not likely. They're too busy trying to one up each other and further each's own agenda. Cooperation is unlikely and if one were to try it on its own, there's no doubt that one of the others would initiate a campaign to unhinge the effort.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Caoimhín P. Connell

1) Unusual quantities of "cat litter" scattered in the yard

What's the cat litter for?

2) Yellow staining/ghosting

Is this one of those "iodine indicators"?

3) Persistent odour of urine

What would that be from? Don't tell me urine is used in production... [:-crazy]

4) Unusually high utility bills

No way for us to know that.

5) Unusual repairs/ structural modifications

Hah! Do you know how many properties fall into that catagory?

Very frequently, the neighbours will approach and whisper something in your ear.

Ooooo... I would make sure I had some other, better evidence to go with that before I said or wrote anything to a client. One also runs the risk of being sued over a lost sale, if false allegations repeated by the HI were the cause.

I wonder if the HI’s professional orgs could pass state-by-state indemnity legislation that would provide liability immunity to Home Inspectors?

Like Mike, I'm sceptical, and like Chris I have little faith in disclaimers. It probably sounds cavalier or naive, but in my area I would have more faith in the 12 people sitting in the jury box. I've lived here all of my life, and I know my people. If the sellers didn't leave test tubes and Bunson burners lying around they would never expect me to know there was a chemical operation there previously. We also have a set of standards and ethics adopted into law (not conformity by choice), which says nothing about such activities.

I would be interested to know what the signs are and glad to keep my eyes open for them, but I reject the idea that this is somehow our responsibility as home inspectors. True, any given judge or jury may choose to disagree; I'm talking about right & wrong.

Brian G.

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Originally posted by Caoimhín P. Connell & Brian Good-man

1) Unusual quantities of "cat litter" scattered in the yard

What's the cat litter for?

BIG cat

2) Yellow staining/ghosting

Is this one of those "iodine indicators"?

Cat markings

3) Persistent odour of urine

What would that be from? Don't tell me urine is used in production...

#$%# CAT !

4) Unusually high utility bills

No way for us to know that.

#$%# Cat Door

5) Unusual repairs/ structural modifications

Hah! Do you know how many properties fall into that catagory?

#$%# Destructive Cat

id="black">Bar B Que the #$%# CAT! [:-bigeyes

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Originally posted by Caoimhín P. Connell

Hello Kurt -

1) Unusual quantities of "cat litter" scattered in the yard

2) Yellow staining/ghosting

3) Persistent odour of urine

And then finally, the que of nervous shady-looking characters with one hand always in a pocket, and ready hundred dollar bills in the other.

AMDG[/size=1]

OK. So now we all know that Prickett's got a lab in his house.

Sorry for the lame joke about this serious subject, but I couldn't resist. This is good information; practical goods that we can use.

Would you say that there is a greater likelihood of lab activity in urban or rural areas? From what I've read, it seems to be more rural(?). True or false? Or, is there no data to say?

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In Michigan it appears to be mostly rural; house with pole barn. Also several were found in old "bread trucks" parked in the back yard. For awhile Mid-Mich and west to the lake was the Meth Capital of the country.

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Good morning, Gents –

I too have a theory about G*d’s purpose for cats, but I’d best not go there…

It is entirely a myth that meth-labs are a rural problem. Certainly, the larger labs are typically in rural areas, but the smaller labs (known as Beavis-and-Butthead labs) are a function of population density and found in higher concentrations where there are more dense populations.

A couple of weeks ago, we set up a meth-lab and cooked some methamphetamine using a popular street method (OK, I’ve got a weird job...). Here is photo of the entire lab (I tried to insert it here, but wasn't smart enough):

http://members.aol.com/fiosrach/5837.jpg

That’s it. That's the entire meth-lab. And, that is not even the most compact method. How many apartments in the city have this much space, and the required equipment (a wall, a sink, and a hot plate or stove)?

When assessing the presence of a meth-lab (or any environmental condition) one shouldn’t rely on merely one or two pieces of evidence, but rather the totality of the circumstances. So although there may be one indicator and some interesting stories by a nosey neighbour, I wouldn’t necessarily go out on a limb and conclude that a meth-lab was present based on that info.

What's the cat litter for?id="blue">

Cat litter is used in one of the processes as a type of air scrubber. Some Tweakers end up with prodigious quantities of the stuff. They don’t want to throw it in the normal rubbish since the garbage men might tip off the cops. So, they scatter it in their yards. (You can see the kitty litter in my photo; the looped tube goes into the litter on the left).

Is this one of those "iodine indicators"?id="blue">

The yellow staining/ghosting is one of the iodine indicators of which I spoke.

Persistent odour of urineid="blue">

The odour of urine is from one of three sources –

1) Phenyl-2-propanone (also known as P2P), which is a precursor in meth production. It smells like cat pee.

2) As we describe on our meth web page, there is a type of meth-lab known as “Tinkle Tweakers.â€

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CP Connell,

Thanks for yet another reason to bite nails and cast occasional glance over the shoulder.

See below regarding liability limitation clauses.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Facts A couple bought a home. They hired CAL to perform a home inspection. The inspection agreement states that CAL’s liability for any matter related to the inspection cannot exceed 50 percent of the inspection fee. Since the fee was $385, liability was limited to $192.50. The inspection stated there were no problems with the home. After the couple moved in, they noticed a roof leak. A roofer said that the roof was defective because it had no flashing, something that should have been noticed by the inspector. The repair would cost between $8,000 and $10,000. The buyers sued CAL for breach of contract, fraud, negligence, and breach of warranty. CAL moved for a declaration that the limit of its liability was $192.50. The trial court held for CAL. The buyers appealed.

Decision

Reversed. The contract limiting the inspector’s liability to half the fee was a contract of adhesion. There were no negotiations. The contract was presented to the buyer on a standard, pre-printed form prepared by the inspector on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, without any opportunity for modification of terms. Since the inspector was an expert and the consumer had no experience in the area, there was grossly unequal bargaining status. Such exculpation clauses are particularly disfavored in contracts for professional services. The damage limit was so small as to effectively eliminate responsibility for the inspector, which is contrary to state public policy of encouraging reliable home inspections and to hold professionals to industry standards.

Citation Lucier v. Williams, --- A.2d --- (2004 WL 257036, App. Div., N.J., 2004)

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Whatever they don't use for meth, they ship to Chicago to sprinkle around Wrigley Field for atmosphere.....

This is kinda scary stuff. I can think of a few "stinker's" (my name for the Section 8 nasties that I sometimes go through) that were nothing but cat pee smell, some w/ cat litter bags. They were in neighborhoods that one could easily associate w/ drug activity. These are usually buildings that are getting totally gutted out and turned into condo's, so there wouldn't be any residue left because everything goes including the plaster.

I always kinda thought it was a rural white trailer trash problem; I'm now thinking I've been some meth labs. [:-shake]

I'm gonna be on the toes from here on out.

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Hi,

Meth labs are found around here a lot - some in the sticks and lots in the urban areas. Hell, they've even got mobile ones in cars! Just last week some kid called the police on her parents who had a meth lab in an apartment in a city. I think it was downtown Tacoma.

I think that the people who create these things should be sentenced to chain gangs and forced to clean these things up sans protective gear or any kind of medical care.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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