Consumer Protection has issued a reminder to home buyers, real estate agents, landlords and tenants about their rights and responsibilities related to illicit drug laboratories.
The agency recently updated information on its website relating to clandestine drug laboratories discovered in suburban houses where dangerous chemical residues left on the premises can cause serious health issues long after the legal process has been completed.
Many agencies and authorities are involved in the notification and clean-up processes for clan labs.
The updated web page provides relevant information and links in addition to details about breach notices and lodging complaints with Consumer Protection.
If the buyer or tenant of a property becomes ill from exposure to harmful chemical residues because it was a former clan lab, then the real estate agency and the property owner could be at risk of legal action.
Where there is, or there should be, some knowledge of the former illegal use of the property then pleading ignorance by real estate professionals is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid proceedings under the Australian Consumer Law, or to avoid potential civil claims for compensation.
In WA, the Real Estate and Business Agents Code of Conduct (the code) requires practitioners to make all reasonable efforts to find out the facts material to a transaction, and to make these facts known to all parties who may be affected by them.
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.
Consumer Protection regards the non-disclosure of a serious health hazard, such as a property containing harmful chemical residue as a result of being a former clan lab, as a breach of the code.
Under Australian Government guidelines, after police have raided a clan lab they must report the property to the relevant local government authority.
A council environmental officer will then issue the owner with a ‘pollution control’ order, requiring them to engage an occupational hygienist to assess the level of contamination.
Local government authorities determine whether properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ under the Health Act 1911 (WA), and can order upgrades at the cost of the owner which includes the decontamination of a property before it can be cleared for habitation again.
Tenants and buyers should be up front about asking if a property has been used as a drug lab or if any ‘fit for habitation’ upgrades have been ordered on the property in the past.
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 or rented was used as a clan lab, then you may choose to lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection.
If you are dealing directly with a private landlord or purchased directly from an owner, you may wish to seek legal advice about your right to compensation, if you have suffered harm.
For more information visit dmirs.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/illicit-drug-laboratories, call 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.