DES MOINES — Home sellers would have to disclose to prospective buyers whether the property for sale had been used to make, use, store or sell methamphetamine drugs under a bill being considered by a state Senate subcommittee.
Senate File 2001 would make it a fraudulent practice not to provide the information during the sale or transfer of real property. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, also would require informational materials on the health risks associated with contaminated real property if the disclosure statement indicated the property had been used to cook, use, sell or store meth.
Jochum said she filed the bill after a northeast Iowa couple told her they bought a house and then were surprised to learn it had been used as a location for a meth lab.
“After they had purchased it, they found out that it had been a meth home, and they had to spend thousands of dollars to decontaminate that home so they could live in it,” she said. “And until they decontaminated it, they weren’t going to be able to live in it because of public health concerns.”
Jochum’s bill got an initial look by a three-member subcommittee Thursday, but the measure was tabled so lawmakers could gather more information.
Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, expressed concern the bill was broadly written so that “real property” could be construed to require disclosure for every structure on a property, not just a house.
“If it’s a barn, clearly no one’s going to live in that barn,” he said. “Would this require me to disclose?”
Subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, said she thinks the disclosure would protect the buyer, the seller and the bank that might have a financial stake in a property, but she agreed the panel needed more information before it would advance it in the legislative process.
Jennifer Kingland, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Realtors, which opposed the bill as drafted, expressed concern that the disclosure would attach a stigma to the property that could lower the value of adjacent properties and cause it to be vandalized or sit vacant as unsellable.
Kingland noted that disclosure forms for property transactions already address potential environmental hazards that would apply to places where meth had been manufactured. She said Realtors would prefer lawmakers create way for property owners to certify that a property where meth was made has been cleaned up and is livable.