More than 190,000 call on Freddie Mac to test homes for meth

The Baltimore Sun

Residents from every state — more than 195,000 people — have signed an online petition that demands Freddie Mac test the homes it is selling for methamphetamine contamination.

The petition was started on the website by Jonathan Hankins, who bought a house in Oregon from the government-run mortgage lender that turned out to be a former meth lab, according to a statement released Tuesday by the website.

“Within weeks of moving in, my wife, my two year old son, and I all started experiencing terrible dry-mouth and mouth sores,” Hankins wrote on the site, in a description of his rationale for starting the appeal. “Then we started to have trouble breathing, and I developed sinus headaches and nosebleeds.”

“My home was contaminated with methamphetamine. But even worse, it was filled with traces of the toxic stew used to cook the drug,” Hankins wrote. He and his family now have to cover the cost of their mortgage while renting a second house to live in, he said.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, there were more than 10,000 clandestine meth lab incidents recorded during 2011, largely in the Midwest and Southeastern sections of the country. Thousands of homes across the U.S. may be contaminated by methamphetamines and the residue that is created during the meth-making process.

In the eight year period from 2004 until 2011, the DEA recorded 10 meth lab incidents in Maryland.

The administration maintains a National Clandestine Laboratory Register that can be accessed through the web. It currently lists six properties in Maryland that were either former drug labs or drug dump sites. Housing advocates caution that this list, which includes properties in Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Garrett and St. Mary’s counties, is probably not comprehensive.

Freddie Mac’s home sales division, HomeSteps, currently lists 105 homes in Maryland.

“We sell homes in accordance with local law and requirements,” said Brad German, a spokesman for Freddie Mac.

At the time of sale, the company did not have any information that Hankins’ house was contaminated, he said. If Freddie Mac had known — through neighbors, police or some other channel — the company would have disclosed it, German said.

The buyers, he noted, waived the right to an inspection of the property before signing on the dotted line.

“We’re very empathetic to the situation,” German said, but that unless new information about the transaction arises, the company is not planning to compensate Hankins for the damaged property.  

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