LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – The Herrera family is struggling after unknowingly buying a house contaminated with methamphetamines, saying they never thought their dream home would have to be condemned due to meth toxins. Now, they’re sharing their story with CBS4, hoping it will warn other home buyers about hidden dangers.
“It’s been nothing but heartache,” said Eric Herrera, who bought the house in Littleton with his wife, Jennifer.
The Herrera family bought the house in March. It was everything they were looking for, but Herrera said about a week and a half after buying the home, he discovered meth paraphernalia.
“I found a meth pipe in the backyard, just in plain sight, cleaning up the rocks,” Herrera said.
He said he also found a pipe in a utility room near the garage.
“I found some weird stuff in there, like an industrial strength surge protector, makeshift drywall, a small mattress, bedding, random things, and I’m cleaning everything out, I get to the end, and I flip over a blanket and I find a meth pipe inside,” Herrera explained.
After finding those items, Herrera decided to have the house tested. Testing documents show 24 samples from various surfaces in the home were taken. The laundry room, heat exchanger, dining room supply vent, and the master bathroom supply vent samples were all found to have levels above the state’s legal limit for meth contamination in the home.
The testing company was obligated to send the high results to the health department, and the house was condemned not long after, which forced the Herrera family to move out.
Now the family is having to rent a condo and pay the mortgage on the house. With two young daughters and two dogs, the family is stretched thin. According to property records, the family paid more than $600,000 for the home.
“What happened to us was wrong, it’s still wrong, the expenses are just continuing to pile up,” Herrera said.
Herrera tried to get the seller, Executive Properties LLC, a company that also flipped the property, to buy the house back. However, Herrera says the seller wouldn’t agree to that.
“In their disclosures at the end, (they) used a loophole that says, ‘we never lived there, because it was a commercial site, we make no representations, about whether there was or was not any methamphetamine contamination, and the buyers aren’t relying on our representations,'” explained Pat Mellen, the attorney for the Herrera family.
Now, the Herrera’s are planning to remediate the house of meth, sell it, and then try to come to a resolution with the seller. But Executive Properties LLC tells CBS4 it did not know of any meth in the home when the property was sold, as it only owned the home for just a couple of months to flip the house.
The attorney for Executive Properties LLC also said in a written statement to CBS4, “although under no legal obligation to do so, Executive Properties has already offered to pay for a full state-certified remediation of the methamphetamine impacted portions of the home. To date, the Herreras have not accepted Executive Properties’ offer to pay to remediate the property.”
The Herrera family said they did not accept the offer, because there have been so many other expenses that have come out of the ordeal that they believe the seller should also pay for.
The Herrera family and their attorney believe the state legislation should step in and create better laws to protect home buyers.
“If in fact within a certain number of days within closing the transaction, you discover information, that should have been disclosed, buyers should have more rights,” said Mellen.
Mellen said she has learned that the issue of meth in homes is far more common than most people would think.
“The concern is that Colorado does permit transfer of property that does include some level of methamphetamines, I’m not sure the public knows that,” Mellen said.
Herrera also believes meth testing should be required on a home before it is sold.
“That would help so many families, I believe there’s families living in methamphetamine contaminated homes and don’t know it,” Herrera said.
In recent years, situations like what happened to the Herrera family have also happened to families in Missouri, Indiana, and Oregon, according to local news reports.
The TriCounty Health Department said a situation akin to what the Herrera family experienced has only happened one other time in recent years. However, in 2019, the TriCounty Health Department issued 16 letters of contamination, and so far in 2020, the department has issued four letters of contamination.
Herrera hopes his family’s ordeal will warn others to be careful, and consider having the house tested before signing on the dotted line.
“If this could happen to us,” Herrera said, “it could happen to anybody.”