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Meth house nightmare!

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Chris Harrison

Thread Starter
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Utah
I appraise a house 6 months ago for purchase. Vacant with new paint, some new carpets, finished basement. I walk in the door and the smell of Pinesol cleaner knocks me over. Room air fresheners in the closets and the basement smells like burnt fertilized. Call the agent and asked if the home had been involved in a fire or used as a meth lab? Was told the subject was a rental and the tenants had trashed the place with pet birds flying lose throughout the house. Call county fire & health to see if they had record of fire, drug bust or clean up at the address. None of record. Told the bank I would be requesting a environmental assessment for health as a condition of value based on possible animal or bird waste toxins. The bank accepts the appraisal and the deal falls through! I make another enemy of a real estate agent and the home is withdrawn from the MLS.
Later date I'm driving in the neighborhood of this home taking comp photos and lo & behold a family is moving into the house. I had to stop and talk to these people! I did not tell them I was an appraiser! Found out that they had purchased the home on FSBO last month. Told them I had "looked" at the home when it was for sale and wondered about the smell. They said that the owner told them the basement fireplace needed to be cleaned and the smell was because tenants had been burning dirty diapers in the fireplace! Damn, this new family has 4 small children.
Jump in the truck and go to the court house to search for records of eviction notices at this address. Sure enough a family was evicted 11 months ago. Called a old friend at the local PD and had him run the name of the evicted family and the male member is being held on charge of having a portable meth lab in his vehicle.
OK, I said this was a nightmare!
This is not true story but could fit the scenario of three families that have made the local news over the last year. Purchased their home and within a year the kids are getting sick and they find out the home has been used as a meth cooking lab.
Could you or should you know the minimal signs of meth labs?

Go AVM's, 2070's, 2055 exterior, etc.
 

Jeff Horton

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Alabama
>>Could you or should you know the minimal signs of meth labs? <<

I have a standard comment that goes in all appraisals. Basically says I am not trained in enviromental issues. Don't think you really want to go there. Could you defend yourself in court if something came up about a statement of a possible meth lab?
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Florida
That's a horrible story, Chris! That poor family - and the children! Where - who would one report this to???? I commend you for following up and finding out the truth. Now, what can be done with that truth? If this place was rented, who was the seller???? Are you in a disclosure state?
 

Chris Harrison

Thread Starter
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Utah
Jeff,
I think we all use a disclaimer but what if the house was on the local news or in the newspaper? What if it's part of public record.....health department records? I don't know!

Pamela,
Utah is a non disclosure state! The health or PD department can't search a home without a warrant! The owner may not know anymore about meth or the smell of a meth labs. He could be a victum of being the owner of a rental. The morgage holder isn't going to like knowing their investment will need $50,000+ to be livable. Not covered by a home owners policy....prior acts clause.
The families that have had this happen are homeless and making payments for their dream houses. Someone is going to start looking for someone to blame.
The real sad thing is there are many not yet found homes that are going to be appraised by someone! Innocent families will be looking for someone to pay for the damage. It could be the next REO I do.
Like I said this is a nightmare ....... it hasn't happened to me yet ...... but it is happening.
 

Steve Owen

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Missouri
Okay. Here's a story for you.

A couple of years ago I was shoveling snow from my driveway. It was bitter cold and there was wind from the north. I thought I smelled propane.

Being very bright, I said to myself, someone must be really stupid to be cooking on a propane grill in this weather.

A few nights later, a friend, walked out of my house and said "You've got a gas leak." She made her husband put out his cigarette. I said "No, I smelled that the other day. I don't know what it is, but it's not here because you only smell it when the wind is out of the north."

She turned my 'gas leak' in and a man from the gas company showed up at my front door. I told him the story: "You can't smell it now because there is no wind. The leak must be someplace north of here."

A couple of days later there was a meth bust at a house about two blocks north of my house. Now, I don't live on snob hill, but this ain't the slums either. It can happen anywhere.

Appraiser liability? I report obvious signs of possible contamination. I also include a comment when a property is in or near an area of possible environmental contamination. Otherwise, I rely on my disclaimer, just like Jeff.

P.S. I called my friend and told her the mob was after her for turning in that meth house. Can't resist a good practical joke.
 

Carol

Sophomore Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2002
Several years ago I had the US Marshal's Service as a client. They would sieze properties of drug dealers, etc and I did the appraisals on them. (They can't sieze the properties now). Anyway, once you smell that stuff, you never forget it and will always be able to recognize it immediately. Meth is a high environmental issue and very bad for the health. Clean up is costly also.
 

Jeff Horton

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Alabama
Cris wrote: "I think we all use a disclaimer but what if the house was on the local news or in the newspaper? What if it's part of public record.....health department records? I don't know!"

I don't know either. But I think what Steve said "I report obvious signs of possible contamination. I also include a comment when a property is in or near an area of possible environmental contamination. Otherwise, I rely on my disclaimer" is an excellent answer.

I was trained in Home Inspection, State Only what you see and what you know. Don't elborate. I am not one to worry about my work but I have a great concern when it come to enviromental issues. Those concern me so I do my best to avoid them. I was thinking about taking an Enviromental course once until someone made a really good point. If I took that class I could no longer say I was not qualified and/or trained in enviromental matters.

Your comment about being on TV is a good point. I could see how a lawyer could make any of look bad if that happened and we were not aware of it. I don't watch that much news so most likely I would not be aware of it!
 

Dee Dee

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
This thread inspired me to ask my son if he had ever been around any houses that were especially smelly and might be suspect as a meth house.
He said no (whew!), but then proceeded to tell me rumors that he had heard that makes me wonder if they could be fact or fiction.

He said that he had been told by other kids that insects and rodents living around meth houses can be extremely aggressive. As the story goes...they are are exposed to and eat the meth, becoming addicted, easily aggitated and territorial.

Anyone else heard of this?
Sounds a bit bizarre to me, but......... :? :?: 8O .
 

Chris Harrison

Thread Starter
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Utah
Jeff,
I know what your saying but Carol made part of my point. It's true that if you have ever smelt a meth lab or it's lingering after smell in a home you will never forget it.
I do a lot of REO's and know what meth labs smell like! The problem is, we all have appraised homes that had a bad smell. What would it take to make you call for a health inspection? After clean up and new paint it doesn't burn your eyes and to me really does smell like burnt fertilizer.
How well should you know the neighborhood? It happens in low and high income areas.

Dee Dee,
I've heard of that happening but never been able to confirm with anyone of authority. I would think it would kill them!!
 

TEL2002

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Louisiana
It's not a meth lab smell...but back in 1980 I used to sell mobile homes in Il. On a hot day when you opened up the display homes the smell would burn your eyes something fierce.

I lived in a manufactured home at that time and never smelled that in my house....but a brand new mobile/double wide was like walking into a room full of tear gas.
 
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