Missouri Homeowner Finds Evidence Of Former Meth Lab Hidden Behind Wall

Missouri: When Jenny Kyle and her husband bought their High Ridge home in 2008, no one told them that they were buying a former meth lab: their home wasn’t listed in a methlab registry and no one had been arrested for making meth in the house. But, Jenny Kyle and her husband discovered the Jenny Kyle talks with News 4 about her meth lab hometell-tale signs that someone had been making meth in the basement of their home, tell-tale signs that the police never noticed or mentioned on their reports – two iodine bottles stored high on a wooden stud in the basement and a bath tub and shower that was hidden behind a wall.

An investigation by News 4 revealed that the previous owner of the home was arrested in 2006 and was later charged in federal court for the possession of methamphetamine with an intent to distribute. He was never charged with making meth,  because the police never found a meth lab in the house, but the Kyle family believes that they have all of the evidence they need. Both Jenny Kyle and her son have experienced breathing problems, since they moved in to the house. Initially,  Jenny assumed that mold in the basement was the root of their health problems, but removing that mold has failed to remove their health problems.

The Kyle family has opted to walk away from the house, rather than pay the thousands of dollars that it would cost to have the home professionally tested and decontaminated. In the process, they will lose all of the money they have invested in to it, but it’s a loss they’re willing to take to save the health of their family.

New Zealand Renters Believe Health Problems Caused By Neighbors Methlab

Doctors couldn’t explain why Shanelle Borlase, a New Zealand renter, was suffering from so many health problems, despite a slew of medical tests. All that Shanelle could tell them is that she began having health problems about two months after she moved in to her new apartment. “At the beginning I suffered from absence of time, where I’d black out but my eyes would be open and I’d still function. Then I started getting blurred vision and walked into objects and people. In the end, I had migraines every day. ” Other health problems soon followed: heart palpitations, eye seizures, dilated pupils, collapsing, and problems keeping her balance. Shanelle’s goal of becoming a professional dancer vanished. She says she couldn’t get through a single dance lesson without “falling over, shaking, or going momentarily blind”.

New Zealand Renter Sickened by Neighbors Meth Lab

Shanelle Borlase

Doctors suspected Shanelle’s health issues may have been caused by a tumor, epilepsy, or problems with her eyes, but MRI, ECG and vision tests all came back normal. Doctors then suspected her health problems were caused by drug abuse, but that wasn’t the case. Although, Shanelle admits that she sometimes used alcohol and cigarettes, that didn’t explain why her health problems appeared after moving in to her apartment.

Shanelle wasn’t the only one having health problems, since moving in to their New Castle home. Her parents and younger brother were all suffering from migraine headaches. They believe that Shanelle suffered from more health problems because her immune system had been weakened by the glandular fever that she suffered in 2005. None of them knew then, that they were living next door to a meth lab, or that Shanelle’s room was the closest to it. And they didn’t know why there was a strange chemical smell to their clothes after they hung them outside to dry, a smell strong enough to coax Shanelle’s mother to rewash them.

“The cooks are venting chemicals outside the house, so if washing is nearby it could be covered in those things. If you have a low immune system, you may be sensitive to low-level exposure to those sorts of things. You certainly could not discount that.”” ~Dr Wayne Temple, director of the National Poisons Centre

The Borlase family still didn’t know that there was a meth lab next door to them, when they moved out of the apartment to let the landlord’s daughter move in. It was a turn-of-events that turned in to a blessing in disguise. Moving out of the apartment resulted in an improvement in their health.

Alan Watkins, another tenant in the building, also reported that he suffered from health problems – nausea and vomiting – health problems that subsided after the landlord had the building decontaminated.

Source:

Milne, Rebecca. NZ Herald: New Zealand’s Latest News, Business, Sport, Weather, Travel, Technology, Entertainment, Politics, Finance, Health, Environment and Science. 11 Nov. 2007. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.

Casper Wyoming: 1445 S. Jackson Street A Meth Lab Home Story

In 2007, Albuquerque, New Mexico resident Licia Henderson found what she thought would be the perfect home in Casper, Wyoming. It had two bedrooms, hard wood floors, and new carpeting, according to the realtor’s pictures. It wasn’t a large home, but Licia, a single woman, didn’t require a lot of space. All she needed was a home of her own where she could begin a new chapter in her life in Casper, a city close to 700 hundred miles from her home in Albuquerque.

With the home inspection complete, an acceptance offer from the seller, and a disclosure statement that had nothing but “rental” written across it, Licia made an offer on the home which the seller accepted. Although she had never actually toured the property or the neighborhood, nothing involving the house indicated that it had any major problems. So on April 23, 2007, Licia became the proud owner of a modest home in Casper.

Licia wasted no time in packing up her things and making the 700 mile trip from Albuquerque to her new home.  Just two days after the closing, Licia walked through the door of her new home for the very first time.

A week after living in the house, Licia noticed something unusual after turning on the heat – strange pains in her chest and a weird taste in her mouth.  Troubled by her new and unusual health problems, Licia discussed them with a new neighbor. It was an enlightening conversation. The neighbor told her what no one else had told her before –  she was living in a home where a meth lab bust had taken place in 2005.

By the Fall of 2007, Licia got in touch with a meth lab clean up company out of Idaho and paid to have them perform meth lab testing on her home. The results of their tests revealed that her home was still contaminated and as the owner of the home the financial responsibility for decontaminating the property fell on her shoulders. In November, Licia decided to take legal action against those that she felt should be responsible for the wrong that had been done to her: the seller, the realtor who had found the house for her, the company the realtor worked for, the realtor who represented the seller and the company that they worked for. Henderson’s lawyer also accused the seller’s realtor of “toxic battery” for the health problems that Licia endured as a result of living in a home filled with toxins. The accused have all denied having any responsible for the devastating turn that Licia’s life has taken since she became the owner of a contaminated home.

The foreclosure listing does not list any information about the home’s former meth lab history.

The end of Licia’s meth lab story is like the ending of many meth lab home buyers. Her house fell in to foreclosure and was sold to someone else. It’s a troubling thought.

According to the Wyoming Department of Health website, “There are no pre-determined clean up levels inside a building or home for many chemicals associated with meth labs. A risk assessment may be necessary in order to evaluate the potential for exposure on a case-by-case basis”. Basically, Wyoming clean up procedures include airing out for 3 to 5 days with household cleaners, after the home has been cleared of “unnecessary items”. They also advise that the ventilation system should also be cleaned and a professional be called to deal with any contamination associated with plumbing. They also warn anyone cleaning the home to wear personal protective equipment during the clean up process.

Wyoming DOH further recommends that “If concerns of contamination remain after cleaning the building, or there is still an odor, visible staining, or physical irritation to those exposed, it’s advisable for a professional to evaluate and test these areas. Testing should also be done if there are concerns with liability issues. Sampling may provide peace of mind for property owners and families and is the most reliable way to measure the effectiveness of clean-up efforts. Guidance and standards are currently available and are being improved as more is learned about meth lab remediation.  The owners should consider contacting their insurance carrier for advice and assistance”.

Licia Henderson Video by Dan Cepeda/Star-Tribune

Resources:

“Cleaning up Hazardous Chemicals at Methamphetamine Laboratories”, Wyoming Department of Health, 08 October 2010, web.

Wolfson, Joshua, “Three years later, meth house still stirs controversy”, Star Tribune, 08, Nov. 2008, web. 08, Nov. 2010

For more information about Wyoming meth lab homes you can contact:

Wyoming Department of Health
Environmental Epidemiologist
2300 Capitol Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82002
307-777-7172

Wyoming Department of Health

or the

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste
307-777-7752

Minnesota: Keller meth lab home sold in Sheriff’s sale

Justin and Kristi Keller of Cannon Falls, Minnesota no longer own a meth lab home. It was sold at a Sheriff’s sale back to their original lender at a significantly reduced price. Although the Kellers paid $250,000 for the home, the home was reportedly bought by Chase Home Finance at a Sheriff’s sale for $219,747.16.

Since the Kellers bought their four bedroom home with six acres of land, their lives like too many others who have bought former meth lab homes, has been turned into a living nightmare. Unable to pay for the decontamination of their home or pay both a mortgage and rent for somewhere else to live, they were left with two choices that no one ever wants to make: bankruptcy or foreclosure. They opted for foreclosure.

What the lender will do with the property is anyone’s guess, but Minnesota Law states that:

The property owner is responsible for the cost of remediation. As with any contracted work, it is in the best interest of the property owner to use caution when hiring someone to provide this service. The property owner should understand the work plan and monitor progress on the site.

The meth legislation, effective January 1, 2006, states that the lab operator (meth cook) can be required to pay restitution to public entities and property owners for costs associated with lab response and remediation. Several meth cooks have entered into repayment agreements with local authorities before and after the effective date of this law.

Minnesota law entitled the Kellers to receive restitution money from the former owners, yet the Kellers never any money from them. Although the former owners were given thirty days to pay the Kellers $100,865.10 for the decontamination of their home, storage fees, and money to rent another home, they never collected any money from them. No payments were made to the Kellers and attaching the paychecks of the sellers was a lost cause – they are unemployed.

For more information read:

Minnesota: Couple unknowingly buys house from meth lab cook

Utah meth lab law didn’t protect their babies

Utah meth lab law left Rachel and Adam Spencer and their babies unprotected from the health and financial consequences of renting a contaminated meth lab home. They say the heartache and suffering that they have been through could have been prevented for $45. This is their story.

When Rachel and Adam Spencer rented an apartment in West Jordan, Utah, in 2006, no one told them it was a meth lab. Although the apartment was dirty, it wasn’t beyond being cleaned – they thought.  Like many young couples, they took on the task and worked hard to turn it in to a wonderful home.  But, despite all of their efforts, the dirt kept coming back.

Rachel described the difficulty they had as they tried to clean their home, as “black oil that would seep through the walls; and no matter what you did to the wall, you couldn’t clean it off.” In November 2009, they found out, what should have been told to them 3 years earlier.

Shortly after moving in to the home, they each began to experience unusual health problems. Adam developed hives that were so severe, that they blocked off his airway. Rachel began to suffer with severe headaches. Both began noticing that they were also having problems remembering things, like who they were speaking to and what they were speaking about, in the middle of phone conversations. Although, they didn’t know it then, their health problems were just the tip of the iceberg.

"baby-sickened-by-meth-lab-home"Last year, Rachel and Adam lost their first baby, when Rachel suffered a miscarriage.

They were happy when they found out that they were pregnant again.

But, doctors soon discovered that their beautiful baby girl, Zoey, had heart problems; heart problems that are so severe, that doctors say she may need to have a heart transplant.

Doctors can’t say for sure that Zoey’s heart problems were caused because of their contaminated meth lab home. Adam and Rachel have no doubts that it did.

Tests for allegens, mold, and meth told the toxic story, that their landlord never did. The house tested positive for meth. They moved out of the house with the clothes on their back. They were told to leave the house and take nothing with them. Everything, they were told, is contaminated.

When they confronted the apartment managers with the news that they had rented them a contaminated home, they claimed they had no idea that someone has used meth in the apartment. When asked what they would do to help them, the management of the complex offered them no help. In fact, they told them that they were victims too. I can only imagine the thoughts and words that must have been running through the Spencers mind on that day.

Ignorance about what the previous tenants had done in the apartment, didn’t change the facts. The test that the Spencers had in-hand, was positive proof that the apartment was unsafe to live in. On the advice of their lawyer, the complex began the decontamination process of the Spencer’s apartment. It was a step that came too little and too late for the Spencer family.

All of the health and financial losses that the Spencers have been made to endure, could have been avoided, if the apartment complex had tested the apartment before they allowed anyone else to move in. The test would have cost them $45. The Spencers now worry how long they will have to pay with their health.

So, the apartment will soon be available for rent again and the money for the decontamination they’re paying for will be paid back to them. But, there is not enough money in the world to pay back what the Spencers have lost.

Meth Lab Homes comment:

Utah legislators are now considering changing their disclosure law to require that rental homes be tested, before anyone can occupy them. It is my hope that law will also require home sellers to certify that the home they’re selling is also free of toxic chemicals.

If you’re thinking it’s not a problem for you, because you don’t live in Utah, think again. No state requires that testing be done on homes before they are rented or sold. None. Keep that in mind, if you’re planning on renting or buying a home, no matter what state you live in.  Please let your legislators know that you expect your state’s disclosure and decontamination laws to protect renters and home buyers!

For more information:

Read  Utah H.B 404

Read more about what happened to the Spencer family on ksl.com and watch their video interview.

Sources:

ksl.com, “Couple warns renters to beware after state meth laws fall short”, http://www.ksl.com/?nid=695&sid=8726504. publication date 11/18/2009, accessed 1/29/09

Minnesota: Couple unknowingly buys house from meth lab cook

krista-kellerAll that Kristi and Justin Keller wanted was a home to call their own, where they could someday raise a family of their own. After years of saving their money for a down payment, they found a nice split-level home in Cannon Falls, that appeared to be just what they wanted.

It was an attractive home with 6 acres of land; a place they envisioned would be a wonderful place to raise a family. The icing on the cake was that it was close to the school where Kristi worked, as an elementary school teacher, about 50 miles southeast of Minneapolis.

Kristi says they made sure that the foundation was solid, the basement was dry, the roof was in good shape, and the house was structurally sound. It all check out. No major problems. So, in December of 2006, they signed paperwork from the seller, that contained a disclosure statement about meth labs. “No” was checked off on the form. It was all good.

painted-window-in-barn1Within a few days of moving in to the home, Kristi began noticing some things about the house, that struck her as being strange.

A window had been painted over with black paint.

A shed had vents in it and it locked “from the inside” and  there were fuel tanks, that Kristi couldn’t make sense of.

Krista says she began researching the Internet for answers, but it was a discussion with a neighbor that provided her with the truth. Kristi and Justin’s new dream home had been used as a meth lab for years, but it had never been busted.  It was something that Kristi and Justin had never considered. Neither one of them knew anything about drugs and none of the many books they bought about buying a house had warned them about buying a former meth lab home.

Within a few hours of talking to her neighbor, Kristi and Justin left their home, in fear of getting sick from the chemicals that remained in the house.  Kristi then called the police department and the sheriff’s office to ask if the home had a drug history. The answer was “no”. The only problem that police noted about the house is that there had been three complaints about the house. All of them involved domestic disputes. Nothing was ever mentioned about drugs.

One police report noted that during one of those disturbances, one of the owners of the house threw a baggie at them that they said contained meth.  A note about the incident noted that the substance inside the bag tested negative for methamphetamine.  Deputies of the  Goodhue County Sheriff’s office said they always suspected that the previous owners may have been involved in something illegal, but they never had enough evidence for a search warrant or an arrest.

disclosure-formThe seller’s disclosure form, which became required by law in Minnesota in 2005,  read  “Seller is not aware of any methamphetamine production has occurred on the property.”  The disclosure holds sellers liable to the buyer for the cost of the meth lab clean up and attorney fees, if it is determined that the seller lied about the property. But, sellers who lie on the form can not be charged with criminal penalties, under the state’s law.

In June of 2008, the Kellers had their home professionally tested by an environmental testing company for a cost of $1,500. Those tests showed that their home was highly contaminated.  They took the matter to court and a judge ordered the previous owner to pay them $100,000, of which, they have received nothing. The previous owner’s lawyer says his client doesn’t have the money to pay them.

The meth lab clean up bill, according to an estimate they received, is $30,000, a cost they aren’t willing to pay. They are too afraid of what’s unknown about the long-term health effects of living in a home that is filled with chemical contaminants. They are talking to their legislators about their home buying experience though and asking that changes be made to the current law.

One option they are considering is making it a crime for a seller to lie on a disclosure form. Another option, they’re considering,  is to make sure that real estate agents know about meth labs. Minnesota Representative Doug Magnus  does not want to require that a home be tested for meth before it’s sold though, because the testing cost so much. He is considering having the septic systems tested for meth, as a way of determining if a home was used as a meth lab, because he says it’s less expensive.

In the meantime, Kristi and Justin are left with few options. The option they are considering taking is letting the home fall in to foreclosure, an option that will ruin the good credit they once had. The Kellers, like other innocent families who unknowingly buy a contaminated meth lab home,  just want to leave their experience in the past so they can regain their strength to begin again.

Meth Lab Homes comment:

If a test had been required on the home before it was sold, this unfortunate experience would never would have happened to the Kellers and others like them, who are essentially victims of the meth lab epidemic in America.  The cost of the testing, $1,500 that was paid by the Kellers should have been paid by the seller before they were allowed to put the property up for sale.  Sellers can always add the cost of testing to the sale price of the home.  With a “clean bill of health” on their home, it would make it alot easier for them to sell their house, as well!

Source:

“Meth turns MN dream home into nightmare”, CBS Channel 11, http://cbs11tv.com/national/home.meth.Minnesota.2.643326.html, 1/31/08, accessed 8/28/09

Read the latest update to this story:

Minnesota: Keller meth lab home sold in Sheriff’s sale

Indiana: The Sabatino meth lab home story

In 2006,  Julie McCoy Sabatino bought a small two-story house in Churubusco, Indiana, an affordable home where she dreamed of happy days together with her 10 year old son.  But, health problems began, just a few weeks after moving in to the home, when both she and her son began experiencing flu-like systems. They began having body aches, headaches, and respiratory problems that triggered her son’s asthma, requiring that he use a nebulizer to open up his airways, just so he could breath normally.

sabatino-home

The Sabatino home on 501 South Main St.

Other health problems began for the Sabatino family, that they hadn’t had before moving in to the home, as well. Julie began experiencing tingling and numbness in her hands, arms, legs, and feet. The numbness got so bad, Julie says,  that she could no longer hold on to anything with her left hand. Her hands and feet are always cold now too, she says, no matter what the weather is like.

The effects of the toxins in the house were also effecting their ability to keep their balance and their ability to concentrate. Julie says that both she and her son were becoming more “clumsy”. Her son also began falling down a lot, a problem that his mother says that he didn’t have before moving in to the house.

Julie and her son sought the advice of doctors, after Julie became increasingly concerned about their unusual health problems. Although doctors noted their symptoms,  they were unable to determine what was causing their illnesses. Julie’s doctor guessed that her health problems could have something to do with her job  Bluffton Rubber Company in Churubusco.  Julie quit her job in an effort to regain her health, but her health problems continued.

stained-ceilingJulie says when she bought the house, the realtor told her there was a “chance” that the home she bought may have had meth in it. They  assured her that the house had been aired out for more than 5 days, which was the recommended practice.   In 2006, the year Julie bought the house,  realtors weren’t required to disclose even that much to a buyer. And airing out the house for 5 days, well that’s what you do when you burn toast to get the smell out of the house. It’s not what you do to get chemicals out of a home that’s been used to make meth, but Julie didn’t know that.

Chemicals used to make meth permeate every surface inside of the homes where meth is cooked. As the meth cooks, fumes travel throughout the house through the air and vent systems, finding it’s way on to every surface in the home and entering into any space where air can travel. And those chemicals, experts say, remain there for many years. Some experts say, they never go away, not on their own, anyway. The only sure way to remove the chemicals from a meth lab home, is to have the home decontaminated.

So, Julie moved in to her new home, excited about having a place of her own, until she began to give it, a closer look.  She began finding things in odd places, like a hypodermic needle syringe inside of a heating vent and packages of pseudoephedrine packages in the garage. And then there were the burn marks on carpeting in the house in strange places and stains on the ceiling of the bedroom that she slept in, upstairs. The words of the real estate agent kept  running through her mind – “there’s a chance that the house had meth in it”.

She decided it was time to find out more about the home’s history.  She asked a local law enforcement officer about the history of the house, but she says their response was “there’s no evidence of that”.  In 2009, she learned the truth about the house though from the Indiana State Police – the couple who had lived in the home previously had been arrested on meth charges in 2005, the year before Julie bought the house.

With no job, health problems, and a young son to take care of, Julie was left with no other choice but to stop making payments on the house to Wells Fargo. She expected that foreclosure proceedings would begin shortly after she stopped making payments, but they didn’t. The lender kept  extending the foreclosure date, a fact that Julie attributes to her suspicion that Wells Fargo doesn’t want the house, either.  Julie guesses that at this point, only the HUD program might be able to do something with it.

With no where else to turn, Julie  contacted Indiana state representative Matt Bell and U.S. Congressman Mark Souder, for help. Although, Bell has been attentive to her desperate situation, she says all he could tell her is that Indiana is just now considering a bill that would require that sellers to disclose if a home has ever been used to make methamphetamine or used to store meth chemicals. In the meantime, Julie and her son are left with no place to live and no money to pay for the decontamination of their home , nor do they have any money to pay for their prescriptions, doctor visits, or medical testing.

Today,  Julie and her son continue to suffer from health and financial problems, because of their contaminated meth lab home.

TN Holt family update: Hope fades as meth lab bills pile up

Several months have passed, since I was first contacted by Rhonda Holt from Winchester, TN, and my most recent conversation with her was distressing. Despite all of what they have gone through, they still have a very steep hill to climb before they can see over the mountain of debt and health problems they’re facing and they are quickly losing hope that they will ever move back in to what was once their dream home. Rhonda has asked me to share more about their meth lab home story, so that others might learn from it. When they bought their house,the Holts tried hard to make their new house a “home”. They removed carpeting, replaced flooring, and painted all the walls and ceilings, which included applying a primer coat of Kilz. Five years later, all of the new carpeting, floors, and the walls that they painted didn’t matter. A conversation that Rhonda had with a neighbor and test results that they obtained from an industrial hygienist revealed that their home was still highly contaminated with meth lab chemicals. My first thought was the contamination had been spread by the heating and air conditioning system in the house. As meth is cooked, toxin-filled-vapors rise and get pulled in to the duct system in the house. Once the toxins are in the duct system, heating unit and/or air conditioning unit, they can then flow right back in to the house via the circulated air. Some say the duct systems can be decontaminated, others say they can’t and should be replaced. Although, replacement the heating and air conditioning unit is probably the safest route to take,  it is yet another additional financial burden to families who are already struggling to pay for the clean up of their meth lab homes. Today, Rhonda and Jason Holt and their three young children are still living with Jason’s parents, wondering when they will ever be able to move back in to their home.  Rhonda says her young son wonders that too.  Recently, he’s been asking his mother a question that is difficult for her to answer -“when can we go back home?”  Her daughter, who continues to have serious breathing problems, is going to see yet another specialist. Rhonda says “they are concerned about her heart now”.  Sadly, Rhonda says her daughter no longer says “home” when they drive by the house. Rhonda says it is getting more difficult for her and Jason to hold on to the hope that their situation will ever be resolved. The $78,000 cost of making their home “safe to live in” is beyond the reach of the Holts , who are still paying $1200 a month in mortgage payments for a home they can’t live in. As you can imagine, money is tight.  So tight, Rhonda tells me, that they can’t even afford to have a phone line installed in the house and she is forced to use the phone belonging to her in-laws. That troubles Rhonda and Jason, who don’t want to place any further burdens on his parents. Yet, they have no choice but to live with Jason’s parents, until they can move back in to their home. Part I – Ever since we bought the house . . . *click on the play button (the triangle shape) to listen to what Rhonda told Meth Lab Homes about her family’s experience.

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Click here to hear Part II of Rhonda Holt’s testimony about how living in a former meth lab home changed the life of her family.

Channel 5 Video about the Holt Family

The Bates Family: Three tours in Iraq and and now a meth lab home

john-and-tyler-in-uniformJohn and Jessie Bates, a newlywed couple from Suquamish, had a healthy bank account, one car loan, and no debt, in 2008. John, 34, had completed three tours in Iraq with the U.S. navy, and came home to find a job as a pipefitter in Bangor. Jessie, 29, worked as a nanny, after leaving a job at Washington Mutual, so she could spend more time to spend with her son,Tyler. Tyler was a typical eight year old boy, enjoying his job as an elementary school student. The Bates are a picture of the all American family; a family who enjoys the simple pleasures in life, like sitting around a bonfire while enjoying the company of family and friends, and owning their own home.

A manufactured home in Suqamish, that had recently been remodeled, seemed like the perfect match. It had two acres of land, a nice view of Seattle, and it was within their price range, $235,000. Their credit rating was good and they had enough money saved up to make the down payment. They studied the real estate disclosure form to see what the sellers checked off for rodents, sanitation, and drug activity – no, no, no. They had a standard home inspection done. No major problems. It was a done deal. They signed a mortgage loan with the bank and looked forward with excitement to starting a new chapter in their lives. But, just a few weeks later, their lives would take a turn that they never expected. Something was making them sick. They had no idea that they were living in a former meth lab, but that’s only part of this story.

The first sign that something wasn’t quite right were the terrible odors in the house. John was determined to find out what the home inspection didn’t find – there was human sewage in the insulation of the master bedroom and black mold inside the walls. The following night, Tyler had to be taken the the ER at the local hospital for difficulties with his breathing. Jessie and John would get also get sick over the months that followed.

bates-family-in-front-of-their-fireplaceThe more they investigated problems with their home, the more the American dream began to resemble a nightmare. Someone had put lipstick on what was now “their pig”. The new flooring in the home was hiding old linoleum underneath it. The septic system had backed up during the rehab of the house and it had never been properly cleaned up. They were infested with rats. The more they tried to investigate and fix the problems, the sicker they got.

In September 2008, they found out from a neighbor that the previous residents may have been running a meth lab. Worried about her family, Jessie called Able RTW Corp, out of Tacoma, WA and asked them if they’d test the house for meth. Able’s tests confirmed what their neighbor suspected – the house was full of the residue left by meth manufacturing chemicals.  The Bates now owned a hazardous waste site considered to be “unfit for human inhabitation” by the health department.  Jessie, 29, John, 34 and Tyler, 8, once so full of hope for the future, had lost their home through no fault of their own.

Owning a  own home had been reduced to a monthly mortgage payment and a monthly storage garage bill, in just a matter of days, for the Bates.  A lot of things ran through their mind, not the least of which was being able  paying their bills on time, including their mortgage. They couldn’t afford to let their credit rating slip. John’s job depended on it.  “Home” for the Bates would now mean the home of Jessie’s mom and step-father, a place they could stay while they figured out how to hold on to their good credit, their house, and their belongings which may also be contaminated that now sit in a storage garage. The cost of decontaminating a meth lab home can run in to tens of thousands of dollars. In some cases the house is so contaminated that the only recourse an owner has is to demolish it and start over or let the bank foreclose on it. Foreclosure wasn’t an option. Foreclosure would mean John would not only lose his house, but he’d lose his Bangor security clearance, which would he needed for his job.

So, the Bates thought they’d hire a lawyer and sue the former owners.  More bad news. The lawyer said the lawsuit could be lengthy and costly.  John and Jessie now saw two choices before them – spend money on a lawsuit that could a long time to resolve if ever or pay for the demolition of their home and start rebuilding a new home. They opted to rebuild their lives by building a new home, with some financial support from Jesse’s mother who has agreed to lend them money from her retirement account.

Jesse has a message for home buyers – “Buyers beware, especially as foreclosures increase. If you don’t know the history of the house, have it tested! And keep in mind that a  “standard home inspection” will not detect drug activity.”

MLH Note:

As in other states, the Bates are not eligible to receive funding to clean up their meth lab home, despite the fact that they didn’t contaminate it.  Grants are available to clean up meth labs, however they are only available to organizations, not individual home owners.

Jesse Bates asked me to share her family’s story with you so that you might learn from their experience.