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Our View: Tell renters about meth labs

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

If people want to sell a property known to have housed a methamphetamine lab, state law requires them to tell any prospective buyers about it.

But if they just want to rent that property, there’s no requirement that they disclose anything, according to an Illinois Department of Public Health representative.

What’s more, the state doesn’t really have a system for ensuring that property owners clean up the toxic chemicals that can be released by a meth-making operation.

This is an unfair double standard and public health hazard that calls for a change in state law.  

Meth labs release toxic chemicals that can be absorbed by building materials and furniture, and that toxic residue can continue to be released for years after the meth-making operation is shut down.

Independent testing commissioned by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper found that some properties that had housed meth labs still had detectable levels of chemicals present four years after a bust.

The residue meth labs leave behind can pose health risks to innocent people who move in later. The Illinois Department of Public Health prescribes an extensive cleaning regimen, including airing out the building, using a HEPA vacuum and washing surfaces and repainting.

There are companies that specialize in that kind of work. The cost of paying for the cleanup falls to the property owner.

It’s certainly not ideal, but the actions of tenants are part of the risk of being a landlord. And landlords should be required to tell future tenants that, yes, there was a meth lab operated here, but we have followed all the steps necessary to make this apartment not only safe, but probably cleaner than it was before.

When it comes to basic health, that of a renter is no different than that of a property owner.

Anyone who is considering either renting or buying a property where a meth lab has been found has a right to know that information before making a decision. And a local or state agency should be charged with ensuring that an adequate cleanup is conducted before anyone else is permitted to live there.

Lawmakers in Springfield should amend state law to eliminate this dangerous loophole.

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