You have been a property owner for years with a good rent flow. It is time to move on from a particular property, so you have decided to sell. You find a great RE Agent and list your property for sale. A buyer comes along and loves the property and now you are under contract. The buyer is from out of town and orders a property inspection that includes testing for meth. The results come back from the lab and show levels of meth at >= 1.5 ug/100 cm2, meaning that your property is contaminated, and you now have a legal liability to disclose this information to any prospective buyer or renter.
This is a real concern for residential and commercial property owners. But is your property a total loss? NO. Maybe your buyer may have walked away from this deal BUT you do have a way forward. Let’s quickly see what that might look like.
The good news in this story is that your property was not used as a clandestine lab and was not reported by law enforcement to the DEQ. Thus your property is not on the DEQ list of contaminated properties.
The main issue you have now is an “unfit” property for health reasons and a legal liability to disclose the contamination to any prospective renters or buyers. You could relist your property and try to sell it with the proper disclosures at a discounted price, but that is just not your style.
Your goal is to obtain a “Certificate of Fitness” from a DEQ Certified Contractor. Obtaining a Certificate of Fitness will restore the property as safely inhabitable & remove your legal liability to disclose that there was meth contamination in the property.
When the DEQ first got involved in the meth problem the standard in the industry was to remediate a property by removing all contaminated components including the drywall back to the studs. This was due to the requirement of meeting the somewhat arbitrary threshold of < 0.1 ug/100 cm2. That just happened to be the analytical measurement limit in the lab. That level was stringent, but was it necessary from a health standpoint?
As MT gained an understanding of the level at which there are true health concerns, balanced by the cost to effectively remediate, the standard required to obtain a Certificate of Fitness was adjusted. So, the law was recently changed, and a new limit has been established at <1.5 ug/cm2. Another change in MT is the expansion of the law to place liability on property owners whose properties have been contaminated by meth smoke. As well, rules were changed regarding the sample testing procedure. All these changes I will briefly discuss below.
Obtaining a Certificate of Fitness
The first step in getting a “certificate of fitness” is to find a DEQ Certified Remediation Contractor. Most properties today are cleaned and will only replace those items that cannot be cleaned. Some items, such as appliances, vent fans, etc. are not worth the cost of cleaning and will be replaced.
Even though your property is not on the DEQ list of contaminated properties you still need to follow their approved procedures & rules in order to be issued a Certificate of Fitness and remove your liability. Now that you have found a DEQ Certified Contractor they will get to work on remediating your property.
The contractor will remediate in 3 specific phases: Assessment Plan, Work Plan, and Clearance Plan. Each phase has a specific purpose. The assessment plan will determine the extent of the contamination. The work plan will determine the specific actions to be taken to properly remediate the property. The clearance plan is actually performed by a separate DEQ-certified contractor. The clearance plan will determine the sample testing based on the assessment & work plans and the rules established by the DEQ that will be used to assure that property is now testing ‘non-detect’ (ND). ND is all samples coming back < 1.5 ug/100 cm2.
You can read the approved rules here: ARM 17.74.519. What does that actually mean to you? This is where Inspect Montana can help you directly. Inspect Montana is a DEQ-certified Contractor, and our sole purpose is to perform the testing necessary to provide a Certificate of Fitness for your property.
Let’s say your property is a 3 bedroom 2 bath home with a detached garage. The property has forced air and exhaust fans in both bathrooms and the kitchen range hood vented to the outside. During remediation, the bathroom exhaust fans, and the kitchen hood were replaced with new appliances and associated ducting. The rest of the property was cleaned using approved techniques to remove any meth from contaminated materials. The property is now ready to be re-tested prior to any painting.
A sampling plan might include:
- 2 samples per room (Kitchen, dining, living, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths or 8X2 = 16 samples)
- 1 sample from the cold air return of the furnace.
- 2 samples from the detached garage.
- 2 additional samples as determined by the DEQ contractor based upon professional judgment.
That is a total of 21 samples. The samples would be sent to an approved analytical lab that uses the NIOSH 9111 testing methodology. All samples would need to return as ‘non-detect’ (ND). Meaning that no sample tested at or higher than 1.5 ug/100 cm2. With this report of all samples coming back ND, the DEQ contractor will follow up with the DEQ demonstrating that your property now meets the standard, and a Certificate of Fitness can be released to you.
Now that you have cleared your property, you can finish the remediation process by having any painting and finishes completed, plus any other items that may be on the punch list. You are now cleared of any liability and are no longer required to disclose that the property was ever contaminated with methamphetamines.
Inspect Montana is here to help you. If you are buying or selling a property, when you need a property inspection we are here to help. Inspect Montana is your solutions-based, one-stop-shop property inspection company with testing services for radon, water, sewer scope, meth, lead-based paint, asbestos, etc.