All 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.
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.
The 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!
“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
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