What do you do when you come into a property you’re supposed to show and discover drugs?
Last week, a real estate manager in Indiana was cleaning out a rental facility when she discovered a gold-and-pink makeup bag that contained foils and baggies of what looked like cocaine. The woman immediately called the police — further testing revealed that the bag had both cocaine and traces of heroin.
“Discovering drugs or drug-making paraphernalia can be common with [foreclosed and abandoned] properties,” Tracey Hawkins, a real estate safety expert, told Inman. “Agents are advised to immediately leave if they discover illegal drugs in a property.”
While coming across a similar situation can be scary, there are number of things agents can do to diffuse the situation.
Here are some safety tips from experts:
Finding what looks like illegal drugs in a work property is a seriously stressful experience for most — many may start to panic and make unwise decisions. That said, the subsequent steps you’ll need to take will require you to have a cool head.
Make your best effort to calm down and assess the situation.
Get out (and then call the police)
This should always be your first step, says Joe Rosner, author of the ‘New Real Estate Safety Book.’ Attempting to handle the situation on your own can put you in all kinds of personal and even legal danger.
“Safety, yours and other [people’s], is not your most important concern, it’s your only concern,” Rosner told Inman. “Leave.”
Do not touch the drugs
It is always better to leave matters to the police — avoid handling what looks like illegal drugs yourself at all costs.
“Not the drugs, not any equipment, don’t even turn the lights on or off,” Rosner said.
Sometimes, though, you may unknowingly pick up a bag before realizing what it is. In that case, put it down where you found it and let the police know how you picked it up.
Be clear and concise on the phone
When on the phone, tell the police clearly what you saw – but do not start describing every detail.
“When calling 911 keep it short and simple: ‘I’m at 123 Main Street and I think I saw illegal drugs inside,’ Rosner advises. “They’ll know what’s important, so don’t deluge them with details they may or may not need right then.”
Afterward, call the listing agent
Once you’re out of the property, it is a good idea to let the listing agent or other person who is working with the property know what you saw. Doing that is both the responsible thing to do and will ensure you did what was required of you in an emergency situation.
“The listing company needs to ensure that the drugs are removed from the property before it can be shown again in order to protect the agents and all parties,” Hawkins said.
Do not be afraid to make a false report
This is one time where it’s better to overreport than underreport or not report at all. Rosner said that, if what you saw turns out to be vitamins or some other harmless substance, you will not get into any trouble for calling the police in good faith.