Focus on the property's safety

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 5 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:10 am in

Gazette Editorial Board

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Should owners selling a home be required to disclose to prospective buyers whether their property had ever been used to make, use, store or sell methamphetamine drugs — more commonly called meth?

A bill sponsored by Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, proposes such. While the intent of this legislation has merit, we think it goes too far.

Meth unquestionably is a dangerous illegal drug that has plagued this state and many others for decades. It not only causes users huge and often irreversible physical and mental damage, the residue from “cooking it” or handling it is considered a serious health risk.

A state law that restricted the sale on certain cold medicines used in meth making greatly reduced the number of labs in Iowa since its passage several years ago. However, the threat has not gone away; in fact, makers have found ways to circumvent the law.

Certainly no one wants to buy a home or property where contamination still existed.

However, expecting every seller to know and disclose whether meth had ever affected the property seems unrealistic and could unduly affect the market value and that of neighboring properties, especially where no criminal investigation had ever taken place.

Yet it also seems right that a potential buyer should know whether the house has meth contamination. Jochum cited an example of a couple who told her they bought a house and then were surprised to find out it had been the site of a meth lab. It cost them thousands of dollars to decontaminate the home before they could safely live in it.

So we think some kind of additional protection for buyers is justified.

Disclosure forms for property sales already include environmental hazards that would cover sites where meth is made. Take the safety factor one step further. Require sellers to certify that the property is clean and safe — no contamination from meth, or any other dangerous chemicals, remains.

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