If you are a strata resident what do you do if you suspect people of using or producing meth? (also known as ice)
Many problems in an apartment complex can be resolved by tackling the issue head on and in person, however if you suspect illegal drug activity, this is definitely NOT be the best course of action, particularly if the drug use comes with other undesirable activity, such as violence or the threat of violence.
There are some significant and dangerous risks involved with meth labs and meth use. Your role in a body corporate should never extend to putting your personal safety at risk.
Additionally, while this article focuses on drugs, much of the advice relates to any suspected criminal activity in your complex. These are police matters NOT body corporate matters and the police are the ones who should be contacted if there’s a concern about meth use or production.
Meth labs are notoriously dangerous with a high risk of explosions or fires. There are also extensive costs in cleaning up the contamination of units from drug use and this can be a major problem for landlords.
From both manufacture and use, those drug residues deposit and stick to all of the hard surfaces in the property they also penetrate all the soft things, so furnishings, carpets and curtains.
The residue then hangs around for years meaning other people actually come into contact with them and absorb that drug into their body having serious consequences on health and can alter behaviour in children.
Illegal drug manufacturing can cause tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to rental properties and leave unsuspecting landlords with massive cleanup bills and without rental income for a considerable amount of time.
Meth labs aren’t always the complex science labs – they can be as small as a thermos flask and able to be transported into an apartment building in a backpack or suitcase without raising any suspicions. They don’t need lots of space – meth can be cooked in an area the size of a cupboard.
When a meth lab is in an apartment building, not only is the owner of the affected apartment exposed to significant financial losses, there are also real risks to neighbouring apartments.
Here is a list of what to look for if you suspect a “drug lab”:
- Windows covered, blacked out or curtains drawn
- Unfriendly inhabitants who appear secretive about their activities, display paranoid or odd behaviour e.g. watching cars suspiciously as they drive by
- Inconsistent behaviour – e.g. always home or never home
- Frequent visitors, at odd hours, for short periods of time, maybe parked away from the house with one person waiting in the car
- Premises have been outfitted with expensive security with no reason.
- Chemical odours such as solvents, acids, cat urine (without the cats), and liquorice
- Garbage containing chemical containers, bottles, metal drums, pots, wiring, soil or PVC piping. Boxes and containers that may have labels spray painted over.
- Residents setting out their garbage in another neighbour’s collection area or waiting for the arrival of the garbage truck before running their garbage to the kerb.
- Residents never putting out any garbage for pick up.
If you do suspect a lab is being run in your property alert the police to handle it.
What about people allegedly smoking pot? What should we do about it?
The answer is more or less the same as the mentioned above – if you suspect that something illegal is occurring, it’s a matter for the police not the body corporate.
Just because something is happening in an apartment complex doesn’t automatically make it something for the body corporate to address.
Common Property & Insurance
However, if the illegal activity is having an impact on common property, the body corporate would have to deal with that as there may be various implications including for your insurance coverage.
For example, if the body corporate were aware of illegal activity affecting common property and did not report it to the appropriate authorities this could have potential ramifications with insurance.
The body corporate could be seen as failing in their duty to take reasonable steps to prevent damage to the property which may be a condition in the insurers policy.
Committees should take reasonable action to report concerns about illegal activities and properly document this (such as keep a copy of the police report number).
Who should report?
So, who should report the suspected illegal activity to the Police?
You do not need a body corporate decision (such as a resolution at committee) to make a police report.
Any owner, occupier or caretaker can do this themselves without going through the committee.
There may be an understandable reluctance to get involved in situations where there might be something illegal going on. When you notify the police, you can always ask to remain anonymous and the police will respect that decision.
if a lease of six months or more takes place there is a requirement that that the details of the tenancy must be provided to the body corporate.
by these means a body corporate can exercise some oversight of tenants, particularly if there is a situation involving potentially illegal activity.
You can also look up the body corporate roll to contact the owner of that lot to make them aware of that you know or suspect that their tenant is involved in illegal activity. This will often motivate them to take action.
Procedures for termination of residential tenancies must be strictly observed no less so than in the case of “serious” breaches involving the use of the rented premises for illegal activity.
But under Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act (RTRAA) s 290A the landlord need only “form a reasonable belief” that the home or unit has been so used for illegal activity and there is no requirement that such illegality be proved e.g. by way of a police prosecution.
What can be Done?
If there is a suspicion of illegal activity the temptation might be there to install CCTV.
Before doing so, check out our article on CCTV in Strata and this fact sheet prepared by the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management with the input of the Queensland Police addressing some of the considerations and obligations which go with CCTV.
Engage Your Committee & Community:
Having your whole community work together will be much more efficient than if you try to act yourself
Go to community meetings together. Many communities have safety training meetings, police meetings, and other events and activities where you can learn more about how to keep your neighborhood safe.
This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be personal advice on any particular matter. Stratacare strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information in this document but should obtain appropriate professional advice based on their own personal circumstances.