Govt seeks feedback on proposals to manage meth contamination in rental housing

Government is seeking public consultation on proposals for regulation of methamphetamine contamination in rental housing.

The government is seeking feedback on proposals for the regulation of methamphetamine contamination in rental housing.

The proposed regulations aim to provide certainty around what to do when residential rental premises are contaminated with methamphetamine.

It is currently unclear what to do when rental premises are found to contain methamphetamine residue. Specifically, it is not clear at what level residue becomes a problem which should be addressed.

This is confusing for stakeholders and has led to disproportionate responses to low levels of methamphetamine residue where there is a low probability of harm.

New Zealand currently uses two different ’acceptable’ levels for methamphetamine contamination, one from the New Zealand Standard NZS 8510:2017, and the other in the 2018 report by the former Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, on methamphetamine contamination.

However, neither of these are mentioned in legislation, therefore neither are legally binding.

“Currently there are two levels used – neither of which are legally binding – which create uncertainty for landlords and tenants,” Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods, said.

“We have proposals that are informed by science, on screening, testing, and decontamination, with clear obligations for landlords.”

The proposals include:

  • a maximum acceptable level of methamphetamine residue in rental housing, above which premises will be considered to be contaminated,
  • a maximum inhabitable level of methamphetamine residue, above which tenancies can be terminated in certain circumstances;
  • requirements for landlords on when and how to test for methamphetamine residue;
  • what types of testing would be permitted under the regulations;
  • how to decontaminate the premises, including while the landlord continues to provide the premises to the tenant, and
  • what to do with possessions which are left behind in contaminated premises.

“In the proposals, a maximum acceptable level of surface methamphetamine residue is proposed to be set at 15 micrograms per 100 square centimetres, which is also the level which a property needs to be decontaminated back to, or below. This level of residue is consistent with the findings of Sir Peter Gluckman’s report and advice from ESR. The sector needs certainty on what level of methamphetamine residue requires decontamination, so making regulations to clarify this is a priority,” Woods said.

Once relevant regulations are in place, landlords will not be able to knowingly rent out premises that are contaminated above the prescribed levels (as set out in the regulations), without decontaminating in accordance with the regulations. They will be liable for a financial penalty of up to $4,000 if they do so.

The announcement, which forms part of a wider range of rental sector reforms including the introduction of a Bill to regulate the property management sector and an extension to the Healthy Homes Standards compliance timeframe, has been welcomed by Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).

Jen Baird, CEO of  REINZ, said one third of Kiwis are renters and this number is expected to increase, and more than 40 per cent of those properties are looked after by residential property managers.

“It is imperative property management services are regulated so there are standards and safeguards in place for a sector where millions of dollars are collected in rent each week and which has an impact on something as important as someone’s home,” said Baird.

“Regulation recognises the importance of professional property managers and will bolster confidence in the residential tenancy market as a whole.”

Baird said the inconsistency in the measurement of methamphetamine residue has caused confusion and concern for some time.

“It is important there is clarification of what level of methamphetamine residue is permissible, and therefore who is liable for the cost of decontamination.”

Detail on the proposed methamphetamine regulations and an opportunity to submit feedback can be found on the Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website. 

Feedback is welcome up to 5pm, Friday February 20, 2023.

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