Residents unaware previous Charlotte area homes were meth labs

by: Tina Terry Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More than 350 homes in the Charlotte area used to be meth labs.

A Channel 9 investigation found some people are moving into the homes without knowing it.

"It was shocking. It was shocking. We said, ‘Wow,’” Thornton Haynes said.

LINK: Listings of local meth labs  

That was his response when he learned the house he bought eight months ago had once been a meth lab.

"Neighbors around you would tell you more about this house than anybody else could tell you about it," Haynes said.

A federal database shows officers discovered a meth lab at his Mount Holly home in 2014, but he didn't find out about it until after he recently closed on the home.

LINK: NC meth decontamination law

Experts said even after a meth lab bust, toxic contamination can remain in the walls, carpets, furniture, even heating and air systems, but North Carolina law leaves it up to property owners to determine the extent of contamination and clean it up.

They can hire a professional to do the work, but it is not a requirement under the law.

A 2013 report written by a nationwide meth lab cleanup company said North Carolina's law is "outdated and grossly remiss" when it comes to ensuring former meth labs are reasonably safe for habitation.

"I think as a consumer it would be better to have the professionals in charge of it as opposed to the seller," real estate attorney Rose Proto said.

Proto said a few changes to North Carolina law could benefit people like Haynes.

For example, Proto said the residential disclosure statement used by sellers in North Carolina asks if there are any hazardous or toxic substances affecting the property.

LINK: North Carolina Residential Property and Owners' Association disclosure statement

"Interesting enough, it doesn't specifically ask as to whether meth has been manufactured in the premises,” Proto said. "The other interesting fact is that the question is posed in the present tense.”

Proto said that gives property owners the ability to keep information about former meth labs from buyers.

Law enforcement officers can submit meth lab busts to the Drug Enforcement Agency if they choose to.  That information is kept in a database and can be viewed by the public.

(WEB EXTRA: Thornton Haynes closed on home,  but didn't know it was once a meth lab)