Industrial units located in rural areas or abandoned lots in the middle of nowhere are no longer commonplace for the manufacturing of methamphetamine, or “meth” as it is commonly called. Drug producers have become more creative and increasingly sophisticated. The reality of living in a former meth lab or near a clandestine meth lab is becoming a concern, and your condominium community may not always be a ‘drug free’ zone. The production of this illicit addictive synthetic stimulant is extremely dangerous due to the volatile substances used to create it. Meth labs are becoming increasingly common in condominium buildings and unfortunately, a large number of meth labs discovered in North America were uncovered because of explosions. Exposing an operation as early as possible would assist in avoiding a disastrous outcome.
The condominium community is a unique residential concept where, in some cases, individually owned units are closely connected to each other through adjacent walls, ceilings and floors. A condominium unit is surrounded by a cluster of units and dangerous activity in one unit can have a huge impact on others. The manufacturing of meth not only poses a danger for those involved in its production, but can also cause great harm to the other units in the building. Health risks and property damage due to explosions pose a dangerous risk to all surrounding units if a meth lab is present. If there is suspicion of this type of activity taking place, this article may assist by providing key characteristics that may indicate that a meth lab is operating inside your condominium.
How does a meth lab pose a threat to adjoining units in a condominium?
It is estimated that for every pound of meth produced, five to seven pounds of waste is created. The waste will continue to pose a hazard for the condominium as many of these products can end up being dumped down the drain to eliminate evidence or simply left in the communal garbage room. The variety of chemicals used to create crystal methamphetamines are not illegal and are generally common household products available to the public. This has increased the number of inexperienced ‘chemists’ producing meth in clandestine laboratories. Crystal methamphetamine production in a condominium unit is dangerous because the ingredients necessary to produce it are highly volatile, flammable, hazardous, affordable and readily available to be purchased at the local hardware store. Furthermore, the recipes that produce this deadly drug are alleged to be simple and easy to follow.
The discovery of a meth lab immediately becomes an emergency and the condominium corporation should investigate this situation without delay. The toxic byproducts that are emitted in the process of “cooking” meth can emanate throughout the building. These by-products are highly flammable and a small spark can set the whole unit ablaze. The serious risks caused during the ‘cooking’ process can linger in the unit after the drug-making is completed. This type of clandestine lab will make the unit uninhabitable. Removal and remediation is costly, time consuming and can potentially stigmatize the unit. Walls, carpets, hardwood floors and ceilings will be dangerously contaminated because of the high levels of saturation. If a meth lab is discovered, a costly process must be undertaken to ensure that the dismantling of the lab is done methodically and the decontamination of the unit is carried out safely and correctly. This adds an additional expense to the corporation, which may increase common expenses of all owners in order to recover the costs of remediating the contaminated unit.
Management and Unit Owners - What should you do if suspicion of a meth lab arises?
The following are signs that are indicative of meth manufacturing:
- Strong chemical scent
- Cat urine scent
- Window coverings that black-out visibility into the unit
- Unusual waste in your garbage room such as:
- Oxygen tanks
- Coffee filters with red stains
- Batteries that have the lithium strip removed
- Compressed gas tanks
- Glass jars/empty containers with punctured holes
- Paint thinner
Due to the highly explosive products used, when suspicion of a meth lab arises:
- Do not touch anything in the unit
- Do not come into contact with any of the items in the unit
- Do not touch any of the unusual items in the garbage room
- Do not light a match or turn on a switch (even if ‘cooking’ is completed, the byproducts are still present in the unit)
- Call the police
Caution to Landlords
In 2008, one of the largest meth lab seizures took place in Ontario. The building owner in that case was oblivious that his units were being used as a factory dedicated to producing crystal methamphetamine. If you are a unit owner who is renting your unit, you should also be familiar with the Residential Tenancies Act, S.O. 2006 (the “RTA”). The RTA provides a landlord with remedies in the event that you suspect illegal activity in your unit. For example, the RTA provides a landlord with the right to entry without written notice in cases of emergency. Landlords also have the right to give a tenant notice of termination of the tenancy agreement if the tenant or another occupant of the rental unit commits an illegal act or carries on an illegal trade, business or occupation or permits a person to do so in the rental unit or the residential complex.
In this regard, if the landlord chooses to terminate a tenancy agreement they would need to deliver a notice of termination that sets out the grounds for termination. The termination date in this notice cannot be earlier than the 10th day after the notice is given in cases such as the production of an illegal drug, the trafficking in an illegal drug, or the possession of an illegal drug for the purposes of trafficking.
Understanding the rights provided by the RTA will enable a landlord to control the activities that are taking place within their condominium unit. Become familiar and aware of the signs suggesting that a meth lab may be operating in your unit and do not become a willfully blind landlord.
Protecting the complex from a potentially destructive, dangerous and hazardous situation should be the paramount concern for all members of the condominium community. Early detection of a clandestine meth lab can limit the potential damage that can ensue. Being more perceptive, vigilant and cautious of the condominium community’s surroundings can raise suspicion. However, the information provided in this article is not an invitation to suspect your neighbours of running a meth lab because they are seen in possession of the items listed above. Rather, it is an invitation to heighten your awareness of activities that may very well be taking place right next door.