Texas Landlords Rent Out Dirty Meth Labs
A lack of regulations on meth lab cleanup in the Lone Star State risks future residents' health.
Texas is not doing enough to protect residents from the health risks caused by meth labs, reports StateImpact Texas. Every ounce of meth cooked produces four or five ounces of toxic byproduct, and meth cooks will dump it anywhere they can. And if those chemicals aren't cleaned up properly, they can cause a range of health problems. In Texas, there are no laws requiring homeowners to clean a property after police break up a meth lab there—so landlords can rent ex-meth labs right away, without even telling tenants about the building’s history. “I’ve got a whole filing cabinet of contaminated homes in Austin that have probably never ever been cleaned,” says Kirk Flippin, owner of Texas Decon Environmental Services, a company specializing in meth lab cleanup. “Texas is very unregulated. It’s kind of like the wild wild West…The citizens aren’t being protected by the state of Texas.” Exposure to the chemicals used by meth cooks can cause health problems like lung disorders and nervous system issues. In children, they may also cause skin rashes and damage to organs like the liver, thyroid and kidneys.
The laws Texas does have to protect residents tend to be ineffective. For example, sellers are required to tell a buyer if a house was used as a meth lab—but if a bank or real estate agent is selling a foreclosed home, they can omit that tiny detail. Other states have much stricter laws: in Colorado, a house can be quarantined even if someone just smoked meth inside. Those campaigning to change the rules in Texas have yet to see much progress. Texas legislature member David Leibowitz proposed requiring landlords to disclose any meth lab history to future tenants: the bill died in the House, and no similar ideas have been suggested since. “The bill failed because the apartment industry put their profits before their renter’s health," says Leibowitz. "They vigorously opposed the bill. They didn’t want to have to notify potential tenants if a meth lab had been in a particular rental unit. They wanted to be able to continue to rent it out.”