REAL LIFE

We bought a meth lab

There was something shocking lurking in Liz's new home.

Liz Middleton, 38, Titirangi, NZ

The walls could do with a good lick of paint and the carpets needed replacing, but I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. My hubby, Kevin, 51, and I had just bought a ‘doer-upper’ in Auckland and were determined to turn it into our dream home for our daughter, Hadley, nine.

‘It’s going to be lovely when we’re done,’ I smiled. When we met the neighbours, they had an odd question for us. ‘Did you get the house tested?’ one asked. ‘There’s been some dodgy things going on in there in the past. The landlord didn’t have a clue.’

‘We got a building report done,’ said Kevin. The neighbour frowned. ‘I meant for drugs,’ they replied. Kevin was astonished. Why on earth would we get a house tested for drugs? Of course we hadn’t! Sure, the former rental property had burn holes in the carpet but we put that down to careless use of cigarettes.

Why on Earth would we get the house tested for drugs?

 From then on though, we started to notice other strange things in our new home. ‘It’s weird how the kitchen cupboards have been moved around and there’s a new floor,’ I said to Kevin, frowning. ‘And why did someone decide to paint over the kitchen bench tiles?’ ‘Maybe they just wanted to redecorate,’ he shrugged.

A few months later, Kevin developed a niggling cough. Then we noticed a chemical smell emanating from the woodwork in our bedroom. Worried, we did some research and began to read stories about people who’d moved into houses unaware that they’d been used as drug labs, and then become ill. ‘What if that’s been going on in our house?’ I asked Kevin. ‘Horrifying as that sounds, I think we’d better get it tested,’ he replied.

The kitchen had to be completely gutted

The $150 inspection report stunned us. ‘We detected a high reading of methamphetamine residue in your house,’ said the inspector. ‘It must be completely stripped and most of your possessions will have to be thrown out. You need to vacate the property immediately.’

‘Oh my goodness,’ I cried, shocked. I was horrified at the thought we’d put our little girl and ourselves in danger. It turned out our bedroom and the kitchen had both been used for meth production! That explained all the burn marks and the smell. It also explained the strange kitchen ‘renovations’ – clearly they’d moved stuff around to make drug production easier and spilt chemicals on the floor.

‘I can’t believe we’ve been sleeping in the same room those creeps were making meth in,’ I wept to Kevin.

‘At least it hasn’t affected you or Hadley, and the doctor said my cough will clear,’ he sighed.

We were forced to move into my parents’ garage, but there were more horrors to come. The decontamination was going to cost $25,000.

They even had to take out the ceiling

The decontaminaters went through everything. We even had to throw out our TV and stereos. It was heartbreaking as they were perfect, but they had a residue on them. We managed to save our leather lounge suite, which they decontaminated for us, and our clothes, after we’d laundered them thoroughly.

‘I just want to smash the place up,’ I wailed to Kevin. ‘I feel so violated and cheated!’

We’re looking into any legal action we may be able to take, but we’re not too hopeful. We finally moved back into our home last month, after six weeks in my parents’ garage.

Hadley finally has her own room back

It’ll take a while to get used to the house again, but one day we’re hoping it will be the home we dreamt of. At least the whole place didn’t have to be demolished, which has happened to some people.

I’d advise anyone who has even a slight suspicion about what their home was used for before they bought it to get a meth test done along with a building inspection. Nobody should live in a toxic house.

Published in that’s life! Issue 25, 2014

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