For landlords and property managers in Virginia, cleaning former meth labs is not only a matter of saving face: it’s the law. Newly-passed state legislation requires landlords to tell prospective tenants whether their selected unit was previously used to manufacture methamphetamines, as well as whether the space has been cleaned to meet state standards. Landlords are only obligated to disclose this information in situations where the landlord a) knew that a prior tenant had used the unit as a meth lab, and b) has not properly sanitized the unit through cleanup guidelines laid out by the Virginia Department of Health. If both a) and b) are true, the landlord must notify any lease applicant before the lease is signed; or, if the lease agreement is a verbal one, before the applicant moves into the unit. Otherwise, the tenant has up to 60 days from the moment they discover that the unit was previously used as a meth lab to terminate the lease through a written notice. The lease ends 15 days after the notice is sent, or through the end of the last-paid rental period—whichever is longer. If left unremediated, methamphetamine residue can cause serious health risks to building occupants. Though primarily manufactured from everyday household products, meth produces significant amounts of dangerous waste. Chemical remains can be toxic, corrosive, and even explosive. People coming into contact with these chemicals may develop burns, irritation, headaches, disorientation, lung damage, and breathing problems. In addition, certain residual compounds, such as Benzene, have proven to cause cancer. Exposure can be especially fatal to young children and pets. The Department of Health has published a 34-page booklet designed to cover the proper meth cleaning procedures from beginning to end. The document includes an overview of health concerns, testing protocol, a cleanup checklist, and a list of state agency contacts. “Guidelines for Cleanup of Residential Property Used to Manufacture Methamphetamine” is available for download here. Below you can find an example of language for a sample disclosure notice to applicants, as well as the complete text of section 55-248.12.3:
Sample Disclosure Notice
DISCLOSURE REQUIRED PURSUANT TO VIRGINIA CODE §55-248.12:3 Pursuant to the disclosure requirement of Virginia Code §55-248.12:3(A), Landlord hereby notifies Applicant that the residential dwelling unit located at [INSERT ADDRESS] was previously used to manufacture methamphetamine and has not yet been cleaned in accordance with the guidelines established pursuant to Virginia Code §32.1-11.7. Landlord has provided this disclosure to Applicant prior to Applicant’s execution of a written lease agreement and/or prior to Applicant’s occupancy of the dwelling unit.
Full Text of the Law
- 55-248.12:3. Required disclosures for property previously used to manufacture methamphetamine; remedy for nondisclosure.
- If the landlord of a residential dwelling unit has actual knowledge that the dwelling unit was previously used to manufacture methamphetamine and has not been cleaned up in accordance with the guidelines established pursuant to § 32.1-11.7, the landlord shall provide to a prospective tenant a written disclosure that so states. Such disclosure shall be provided prior to the execution by the tenant of a written lease agreement or, in the case of an oral lease agreement, prior to occupancy by the tenant.
- Any tenant who is not provided the disclosure required by subsection A may terminate the lease agreement at any time within 60 days of discovery that the property was previously used to manufacture methamphetamine and has not been cleaned up in accordance with the guidelines established pursuant to § 32.1-11.7 by providing written notice to the landlord in accordance with the lease or as required by law. Such termination shall be effective as of (i) 15 days after the date of the mailing of the notice or (ii) the date through which rent has been paid, whichever is later. In no event, however, shall the effective date of the termination exceed one month from the date of mailing. Termination of the lease agreement shall be the exclusive remedy for the failure to comply with the disclosure provisions required by this section and shall not affect any rights or duties of the landlord or tenant arising under this chapter, other applicable law, or the rental agreement.
If you have any questions about this or any other Virginia landlord-tenant law, talk to a lawyer. Offit Kurman’s Landlord Representation practice group is dedicated to helping landlords comply with state and federal legislation, solving complex legal questions, and protecting their property investments. Click here to learn more about our Landlord Representation services. To get in touch with me directly, click here.
About Crystal KRAMER
Crystal’s practice is focused on representation of landlords and property managers of residential and commercial real estate in Virginia. This representation includes Fair Housing disputes and all litigation associated with lease disputes, including breach of lease, unlawful detainer actions, and tenant’s assertion actions. Prior to joining Offit Kurman, Crystal worked as an attorney at a Virginia employment law firm, and clerked at the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn. WASHINGTON | BALTIMORE | FREDERICK | PHILADELPHIA | WILMINGTON | VIRGINIA