Landlords must provide a clean and habitable property. Tenants must not use the rental property for an unlawful purpose. This includes smoking or manufacturing meth.
If landlords rent out contaminated properties, they may be breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. They may also be breaching other legislation such as the Building Act 2004 and the Health Act 1956.
Tenants must not use or manufacture meth
Using, possessing, selling and manufacturing meth are offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Tenants who smoke, sell or manufacture meth in a rental property are using the property for an unlawful purpose. This is a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act.
Tenants who cause meth contamination are also breaching their obligation to not intentionally or carelessly damage the property. In most cases, tenants will be found liable for damage from meth contamination caused by a tenant or their guests.
The Tenancy Tribunal may order tenants who have used a rental property for an unlawful purpose to pay a penalty of up to $1,000.
Landlords can test for meth contamination at any time between tenancies.
During a tenancy, landlords can only test with the tenant’s agreement. If the tenants agree, landlords can test the property only, not the tenant’s belongings.
At the start of a tenancy, landlords may include additional clauses related to meth testing in the tenancy agreement. Any additional clauses must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act.
What do I do if I suspect or find a meth lab?
If you think a property is being used for meth use, manufacture, or sale, contact the Police and your local Council.
New Zealand methamphetamine standard
The Residential Tenancies Act does not state what level of meth contamination is acceptable for health reasons in a rental property. There are two sources of information which have different views about what level of contamination creates a health risk. Both of these can be used as guidance to assist landlords and tenants.
The New Zealand Standard
NZS 8510:2017 Testing and Decontamination of Methamphetamine Contaminated Properties, provides industry guidance on good practice methods in the testing and clean-up of meth contamination in houses. The standard considers a house to be contaminated if meth is present at levels higher than 1.5 µg/100 cm2. This compares to a maximum health intervention level of 0.5 µg/100 cm2 in Australia, and 0.1 µg/100 cm2 in most states in the USA. The testing needs to be done according to the methods in the standard.
Download the standard(external link) (Standards New Zealand)
Report from Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor
The previous Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, released a report on the health effects of meth residue in residential properties — Methamphetamine contamination in residential properties: Exposures, risk levels, and interpretation of standards (the CSA report). The report suggested that exposure to meth at levels below 15 µg/100 cm2 would be unlikely to cause any adverse effects.
Before deciding whether to take a meth-related claim to the Tenancy Tribunal, you should consider all available information. This includes:
- the New Zealand Standard
- the CSA report
- Tribunal decisions. Recent decisions allow a landlord to refer to the guidance available at the time a property was tested and decontaminated.
You should also consider:
- when the testing and decontamination took place
- what evidence there is of methamphetamine manufacture or use in the premises
- how to satisfy the Tribunal the premises was not contaminated before the tenancy started
We also encourage you to seek independent legal advice and speak to your insurance company.
Proposed changes to legislation
Parliament is currently considering the Residential Tenancies Act Amendment Bill (No. 2). This would allow new regulations to determine:
- maximum acceptable levels of contaminants in premises, including meth
- which other substances may be considered contaminants
- who is authorised to carry out testing and decontamination
- testing processes (including when to test) and decontamination of rental properties.
Under the proposed changes, landlords would also be able to test for meth contamination during a tenancy by providing notice. They must also decontaminate a property they know is contaminated with meth before renting the property again.