The NZPIF is very pleased that the new NZ Standard for testing and decontamination of methamphetamine contaminated properties has been released.
We would like to thank the NZ Standards staff who have worked on the new Standard and facilitated its release in a very time efficient manner.
The Standard becomes effective as soon as it is released and you can obtain a free pdf copy at the Standards website at www.standards.govt.nz.
The standard is available for people to use as a guide to testing and decontamination of affected properties. It aims to ensure consistency, reliability, and competency in dealing with methamphetamine-contaminated properties, and to reduce people’s exposure to harm.
The standard is essentially a good practice guide. It can only be legally enforceable if it is cited in an Act or Regulation.
The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No.2), which has recently had its first reading in parliament, makes provision for managing methamphetamine contamination in rental properties. The Bill proposes to enable decontamination levels, specified in NZS 8510, to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal.
However we expect that the Tenancy Tribunal will use the Standard when making rulings on meth related matters and will relate these to the higher acceptable level of meth in a rental property.
There is also the possibility that local councils may make reference to NZS 8510 when setting requirements for properties that are subject to cleansing orders under the Health Act 1956, or LIM (Land Information Memorandum).
The NZPIF has requested a meeting as soon as possible with the Principle Tenancy Tribunal Adjudicator to discuss the new standard and how adjudicators will handle meth matters that come before the Tribunal.
Key points in the Standard
Probably the main point of the new Standard is that the acceptable safe limit for meth in a property has increased from 0.5 micrograms per 100cm2 to 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2.
Some may be alarmed at a tripling of the old level. However it must be placed in context. The old level was determined by taking the lowest level of meth where there was no affect on humans. An allowance was made for people who may be highly susceptible to meth and then the level was further reduced by a safety factor of 300 times. This means that both the old and new limits are still extremely conservative.
Scientists believe that meth is already on NZ bank notes in higher concentrations. In addition, children with ADHD in America are prescribed doses of meth 1000 to 2000 times higher than the old level.
Although the new level is still very conservative, testing laboratories advise that 80% to 90% of current meth samples are below the new level. This means that the new level should have a large impact on the number of properties that are considered contaminated and will make it easier for cleaning companies to remediate contaminated properties to under the new level.
Another key point in the standard is that, with some conditions, property owners can conduct their own meth tests. This will allow rental property owners to use instant test kits to provide confidence to new tenants that the property does not contain meth levels above current standards.
The standard does have conditions on self-testing. To ensure accuracy and consistency, the Standard states that self testers need to have attended a course on how to conduct a test and also use an approved self test kit.
In order to get the new standard out as soon as possible, there is acknowledgement that some aspects, such as training or accreditation of operators, will take time to set up and implement.
The NZPIF is looking at forming relationships with course providers, samplers and test kit suppliers for members to use.
More information will be passed on when it is available.
The new standard has said that self testers must attend a course on how to take and report on the meth test plus use an approved self test kit. As these factors are not yet available we are not yet able to comply.
We are also waiting for the Tenancy Tribunal to research the new standards and develop their own policy.
However, there are some things you can do in the mean time that should enhance your chances of achieving a good outcome at the Tenancy Tribunal.
The Tribunal looks at the accuracy and soundness of the information presented to it when determining cases. With this in mind, the following are some steps you could take to enhance having the Tribunal accept your self-test kit as evidence before the previously mentioned aspects of the standard are available.
What if you find meth in your property?
A self test kit provides a "yes/no" answer so only identifies if there is meth in the property, but not how much. If the result is positive you will need to determine how much meth is in the property.
To do this you will need to undertake a laboratory test that will quantify the level of meth in your property. If it is below 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 then the property is below the NZ Standard guidelines and does not need to be remediated.
If it is above 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 then the property will need to be decontaminated. Contact your insurance provider to establish what steps you should take next.