The Dreaded Drug Lab

A primary reason regularly cited by property owners seeking professional management for their property is the risk of extreme tenant abuse of their property. Among these possible abuses is the dreaded drug lab.

According to the Oregon Department of Public Health, over half of drug lab properties discovered are on rental properties, and property owners are ultimately responsible for the cleanup and its costs. *

The good news is that we are in Oregon, the first state (2006) to require a prescription to obtain pseudoephedrine products.  While it is a major inconvenience to those suffering from colds, Oregon dropped from approximately 400 incidents in 2004 to 20 lab incidents in 2008. In addition, those 20 incidents were primarily dump sites along the border of adjacent states.**  With that said, drug labs still exist, and pose a threat that every landlord would like to avoid.

Steps you can take to be proactive are:

  • Screen tenants thoroughly by covering all of the bases and paying attention to inconsistencies.
  • Meet all tenants in person and check their photo ID.
  • Perform drive-bys to look out for suspicious activity as well as scheduled walkthroughs. Items to look for:
    Large quantities of trash/secondary use barrels or jugs
    Red stains in the kitchen or bathroom, especially on aluminum items
    Increased activity, especially at night.
    Paranoid or odd behavior from the tenants
    Blacked out windows
    Excessive home security
    Chemical odors, especially ammonia or strong cat box smell when there are no cats
  • Keep communication open with neighbors of the property. Having a distant/anonymous approach makes less work and frustration for you, but neighbors typically pick up on patterns and other suspicious activities.
  • Use rental agreements that address criminal activity.

If you suspect a drug lab, DO NOT ENTER the property. Labs present a risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals and possible explosion. Contact local law enforcement. In an emergency, call 911.


* Oregon Public Health Division, Tips for Rental Owners, March 2015

** Office of National Drug Control Policy: Methamphetamine Trends in the United States, July 2010


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