A bill requiring home sellers to disclose if their property has been used as a methamphetamine laboratory and giving purchasers the right to sue for damages is making its way through the Colorado legislature.

State Senate Bill 06-002, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Shaffer, says that a buyer has the right to test the property using a certified industrial hygienist to see if it has been used as a meth lab. If the property was indeed used for the purpose, the seller must remedy environmental problems in the house caused by the lab, the bill provides.

“We respect the severity of the issue and we are not taking a stand one way or the other which direction this should take,” said Kit Cowperthwaite, president elect of the Colorado Association of Realtors. “Realtors are strong advocates of helping consumers locate safe and affordable homes and so as a results we take these issues very seriously,” he added.

The rising use of methamphetamine in Colorado and its costly impact on local and state services is increasingly taking the spotlight in that state.

Colorado’s three declared gubernatorial candidates – Republicans Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman and Democrat Bill Ritter – were peppered with questions on the issue during a campaign debate in Grand Junction, Colo., earlier this month, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.

Colorado is only one of many states affected by the problem. In North Carolina, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) held a Government Reform Committee field hearing on eliminating methamphetamine’s influence in the Tenth District on Tuesday in the Caldwell County Commissioners Chamber, the Charlotte News reported today.

The hearing explored potential ways the federal government can assist state and local law enforcement agencies in combating the rising tide of methamphetamine use and trafficking, reports said.

Shaffer’s bill has already passed in Colorado’s House and is now under consideration in the Senate.

If passed, the bill would provide that a buyer of residential real estate property has the right to test the property to see if it has been used as a meth lab. The buyer can go ahead and purchase the property as long as the seller provides the Department of Public Health and Environment with proof that the problems caused by traces of methamphetamine will be remediated.

Home sellers who knew their properties had been used as meth labs and didn’t disclose this are liable to buyers for remediation costs, costs related to any health-related injuries and attorneys’ fees for collection of costs from the seller.

Legislation dealing with methamphetamine in the real estate arena is by no means a novelty.

In April 2003, after a baby’s fingers were burned from crawling on the carpet of a newly purchased home that had been bought after a foreclosure, the City of North Las Vegas sprang into action and drafted legislation that would require landlords, homeowners and real estate agents to reveal the known presence of past clandestine laboratories used to produce methamphetamine.

Clandestine drug labs–even ones that seemingly have been shut down–can wreak havoc on property values and cause tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. The manufacturing process creates toxic chemical by-products that can contaminate such porous materials as walls, plaster, carpeting, furniture and counters. Plumbing and ventilation systems can also become contaminated.

Methamphetamine, also known as “speed” or “crank,” is a central nervous system stimulant oftentimes produced in makeshift labs set up in rental houses, apartments, motel rooms, garages, storage sheds, cars, campgrounds and various outbuildings. Processes that produce methamphetamine use explosives, solvents, metals, salts, corrosives and other chemicals, according to a King County, Wash., Public Health Web site. The chemicals and process byproducts can burn skin, irritate respiratory functions and in some cases cause severe reactions.

“Our position right now is that Realtors, among others, have the obligation to make sure the home buyers out there have access to good information and we have always encouraged people to contact local law enforcement agencies that might have relevant information on ay issues, not just the existence of meth labs,” said CAR’s Cowperthwaite.

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