Know your rights when it comes to meth properties

TULSA - The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics says around 900 meth labs were found statewide in Oklahoma in 2011. About half of those were in Tulsa.

Meth labs are a growing problem in Green Country and it's important for buyers and renters to know their rights when it comes to exposure to the financial and health risks associated with properties that have been used as meth labs.

"We realize that we needed a house to settle into. We were looking through the market and we came upon a good deal. We thought we were getting a good deal," said Phillip Brotherton.

Soon after Brotherton and Kara Powell bought their first home, Kara started getting skin irritations. A neighbor told them a meth lab had been busted in their house.

"I was more concerned for my baby," said Powell.  "Because I didn't know what kind an affect that could have on him. I was really scared for him. I was really annoyed. It made me mad.

They say the owner did not disclose this, even though state law requires home sellers to do so. The family spent thousands to have a professional company clean their home.

Home disclosure forms in Oklahoma clearly ask if a seller has knowledge of meth production in the home. It's meant to protect buyers. But the Brotherton family learned the hard way that that doesn't always happen.
    
Tulsa Attorney Brian Huddleston specializes in Real Estate transactions.

"This problem is becoming more of a problem to where this is going to raise it's head more and more," said Huddleston.

He says home buyers in Oklahoma have been entitled to meth disclosure since 2003. It wasn't until November 2010 that renters gained the same protection.

Huddleston says unlike home sellers, landlords can't simply claim they don't have knowledge of a meth lab because they are required to do their homework.

"They have right to be told by their landlord that your apartment has never been a meth lab," said Huddleston. "And the landlord has to know it. But has to have done some level of inquiry. So he has reason to know that it's not one.

Huddleston says there are exceptions. Disclosure does not have to be made to a renter when the owner has hired a professional mitigation company and the company provides documentation proving the home is safe.

There are also exemptions for home sales. The meth disclosure does not apply to foreclosures, homes where the owner has never lived, as well as transfers between blood relatives, divorces and trusts.

"As a parent and property investor myself and a property owner," said Eric Gomez, licensed real estate consultant. "We certainly want to know everything we can about that property".

Gomez says when it comes to buying or renting, people need to consider more than a home's curb appeal. He urges them to do their research.

"I would absolutely encourage everyone to just go in with eyes wide open," said Gomez.

You can check a home or apartment's address by going to to the Tulsa Police Department's meth lab map or the DEA's clandestine meth lab registry for Oklahoma.

For more information on meth, including an interactive feature, statistics or to search your neighborhood for meth busts, visit our special page Fighting Our Meth Epidemic .

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