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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Duty to Disclose?: This House Used to Be a Meth Lab Edition

We spend a lot of time in Contracts talking about bugs and whether the seller of a home has a duty to disclose known, latent defects -- e.g., termites or bed bugs.  Then we usually talk about ghosts: does a seller have a duty to disclose that the house is haunted?  Well, here's a new one: does the seller have a duty to disclose that the house has a history of use as a meth lab?  Or, is it buyer beware? 

Ask Jenn Friberg and Rob Quigley.  CNN reports that they bought their first home, a 4-bedroom house near Philadelphia in March.  They moved in only to discover from a neighbor that the $190,000 house had previously been used as a meth lab.  Professional removal costs well over $20,000.  They were horrified.  From CNN:

The couple complained of having headaches, sore throats and difficulty breathing after moving in -- all symptoms of possible methamphetamine exposure.

"It was really odd," Quigley said. "I would go to work and it would go away. I would come home and it would just start again."

They went to a doctor, who confirmed they had inflamed lungs and nostrils, he said. A test of the house revealed it had low levels of methamphetamine.

* * *

Friberg and Quigley's real estate agent said he was as blindsided as his clients.

"I have never seen anything like this in the 20 years I've been in the business," said Ellis Harrison, who also helped Quigley's parents buy their home.

"It's ugly and I wish I had the solution. Anything that could be done for these kids would help."

Harrison called the district attorney's office for answers after learning of the home's history from Quigley. The DA's office confirmed the home had been used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Routine home inspections generally do not include searching for evidence of a meth lab, and Pennsylvania does not (yet) have mandatory disclosure laws specifically addressing meth labs (it does, however, generally mention hazardous materials).  And, there is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's National Clandestine Laboratory Registry, which lists addresses where local authorities have reported finding drug manufacturing facilities or dumps.

Here's an interview the couple gave to the local CBS affiliate:

They also have a blog "Our Meth House."

[Meredith R. Miller - h/t Kevin Hagler]

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