By Cassie Kelly & Xander Zellner | March 22, 2013
Athens County has seen three methamphetamine busts in houses during the past three weeks, but it will take about six years before the values of those houses are affected.
In Ohio, each county is required to perform a property evaluation and inspection of every property every six years to determine the value.
Three of the busts occurred at the Tomoko Trailer Park in The Plains, but Don Linder of Larry Conrath Realty said the market remains steady.
“There aren’t any negative reasons that anyone would leave (Athens County),” Linder said. “Athens is a transient market; people come and go because of the university.”
When a homeowner is busted for manufacturing drugs, the house may be seized by the landlord and inspected for levels of toxicity and chemicals in the house. However, Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly said it is rare for the house to be condemned.
“We have never had a place that had the levels of toxicity that we would have to condemn the place,” he said. “You have to have had a major cook operation for a long period of time before the meth will be saturated into the walls and carpets.”
For a drug house to be condemned, there must be extreme levels of toxins in the walls and carpets — places where harmful chemicals are more likely to stay — so the house would be unsafe to live in.
“People generally get the message or the landlord gets the message that if (drug use) continues, I’ll come after their homes to get them forfeited,” Kelly said. “They have an obligation that if they know that someone in their residence is dealing drugs to kick them out of the residence.”
After the court seizes a drug house, the landlord is responsible for making the house marketable for interested homebuyers. However, the manufacturing of methamphetamine and other drugs often leaves toxins and chemicals in the carpets and walls, which can cause harm to future homeowners, said Detective Jim Heater of the sheriff’s Narcotics Enforcement Team.
While Heater and other detectives on the NET notify landlords of the health risks in a drug house, Heater and Kelly are unclear as to whether they are required by law to inform interested homebuyers.
“I think that if the landlords made that known that there used to be meth being cooked in the house, then it would definitely affect the value of the house,” Heater said. “I personally think it should have to be known, so a person can make a conscious choice.”
Linder said they do tell potential buyers why the previous owners left.
In recent years, large-scale meth labs have become uncommon, Kelly said, because of the lengthy and expensive process. Manufacturers are more likely to use the growing “shake and bake” method, in which the drug can be made in something as small as a water bottle.
“Meth labs aren’t what most people think they are,” Kelly said. “There are some big elaborate meth labs, but something as small as a bottle could be a meth lab. It’s whatever cooks methamphetamine.”
One reason to explain the recent outbreak of meth in Athens, Kelly said, is that people are learning online how to make the drugs.
“The problem is that that would be like somebody teaching me how to make a cake online,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to get it right the first few times; it’s going to take me some times to make it, and you don’t have any margin for error in making methamphetamine.”
This story was a part of the entire Spring Project for the Local Staff in 2013. You can find the entire project here.
Read the original story in The Post, here.