Friday, October 26, 2012

Avoiding Buying a Home Which Was Used in the Drug Trade

ANY home may have been used in the drug trade, and it may not be immediately obvious.
     Even the title is amusing. Who would buy a house that was involved in any way, in the illicit drug trade ?  The fact is that many people do, and they have absolutely no idea until something disastrous happens there.  It used to be that it was easy to avoid buying a "drug den".  Such places were always in bad neighborhoods and were dirty or obvious.  In fact, a realtor might not even accompany you to a dangerous location.  This is no longer true.  Some very lovely and gracious homes have been part and parcel of the drug trade.  In addition, some very nice rural homes in serene areas have also been involved in the illicit drug trade.  It's also true that there are many different ways in which the drug trade might use a home.  Some homes might be used to grow tree sized marijuana, or to start plants indoors or in windowed outbuildings. Other homes might be used as a place to stock drugs as the owner may be involved in illicit drug distribution. Some people stock the drugs and allow another dealer to pick it up at his location.  Others actually sell drugs from their home.  In some of these locations marijuana is the only drug involved.   In others, methamphetamines are being cooked on stove tops. This is a particularly dangerous practice and has damaged the people who move into such homes afterward, as these noxious chemicals are in carpets, walls, and everywhere else.  Young children are particularly sensitive to these remaining chemicals and at least one recent death has been attributed to moving in to an unknown former meth lab, and breathing in the environment.  Of course crack cocaine, and cocaine and even heroin dealers also have homes and may distribute from them.
              According to law enforcement, as the economy has worsened, both inner city and rural clandestine drug labs and distributors have appeared.  Police call these "clan labs".   Some of the people who run such operations from their homes don't pay their mortgages, and a number of these clan labs become homes in foreclosure.  Pay close attention to this article before you buy a US foreclosure.  It may well be anything from a low level "pot farm" to a "meth lab" to a source for multiple types of drugs.  You may not simply be endangered by the fumes of such a place, but by those who may return to look for drugs, cash, or to eliminate their own competition whom they assume may still live there.
             These are some things which may indicate that your "dream home" has a checkered past in this regard:

  1.  Use caution any time you are considering buying a repossession where you are told "the owners defaulted because they are in jail for drug abuse/sales."
  2.  Pay attention when the neighbors of the repossessed home you are considering says that they thought there was drug activity there.
  3. Be alert to soil in peculiar places like kitchen cabinets. Marijuana grow houses often spill soils and vermiculite and this can cause unseen mold in a house, so this can be a telltale sign. Some references say that marijuana grow houses may have bad wiring as a result of frequent irrigation.
 4.  When purchasing, write a Contract contingent upon a whole house inspection. Then, have a good inspection done and ASK them to look for signs of drug activity.
 5. In the US, Call the DEA.  Ask them  Most of their offices will send a couple of agents to sweep and test your home.
 6.  Consider the possibility of the prior owners or tenants "meth cooking" when the house is being sold with the stove gone.
7.  Do not move infants or children especially into a former meth. house.  Although the residual contaminants are dangerous to everyone, they are especially dangerous to young children.
8. When you do buy a home, change the locks and pay a reputable handyman or builder to reinforce your exterior door frames.   This would make it much harder to kick the door in, particularly at night.  If this is done correctly, the door won't be kicked in very easily and a metal door would be destroyed but would not allow entry. Attempted entry would not only be very time consuming for someone, but would be very noisy, as well.

       In addition to the potential environmental hazards of former drug selling or manufacturing homes, there is another hazard of which you should be aware.  One of my firearms trainers told me of a man who bought a new house and then have several people attempting to enter it through the master bedroom window in the middle of the night.  The new owner shot one of them.  It seems that sometimes former drug partners, original owners or buyers will try to enter to either look for residual hidden cash or perhaps even hidden drugs.   Many people have bought lovely repossessions and have had a version of this scenario occur.  Make sure you do your best to anticipate such a possibility.

         Keep in mind that the very same things which make a home attractive to someone interested in preparedness or survival, are things a drug dealer might seek also.  Both may be drawn to a solid home, with privacy, without neighbors too close,  with plenty of storage, particularly  hidden storage. Notice rooms with hidden closets or where there is a dropped ceiling, or hidden attic storage. Note hidden storage below wood floors. Both groups might like some acreage and lots of parking. Both may seek a place a distance from town, but of course, for very different reasons.    So when a person who is interested in preparedness finally finds the perfect home, and it is a foreclosure, for example, they may well have selected a former drug haven of some kind..
        Remember that when a bank or governmental agency sells a house they provide lots of documents which hold them blameless from the activities of the prior owners.  If they have sold you a home which is eventually found to need fifty thousand dollars worth of remediation, then this is your problem.  Some families have had to bulldoze such a home and start again, with no accountability whatsoever from the bank or government agency who sold them the home.

More information on this topic: