Atlanta - Your next house may have once been a drug den, and you may never know.
Georgia does not require property owners to disclose whether a home was ever part of a drug operation, and does not even require them to thoroughly clean it. Experts say that could be dangerous, because meth and other drugs can seep into the walls and floors.
Rhonda Duffy of duffyrealtyofatlanta.com tells WSB it's up to a home buyer "to figure out what the house has been and what it is today." Duffy says "In the state of Georgia it's buyer beware."
An AJC investigation found the federal government has a registry of former meth houses, but it is outdated and incomplete.
For instance, the AJC found a residence on Newbury Road in Norcross, where police seized nearly a half ton of meth in 2010, did not make the list. Neither did a home on La Maison Drive in Lawrenceville that was once called the "national epicenter" of the Mexican drug cartel known as La Familia.
Duffy says the best thing you can do when you're buying a house is talk to neighbors. She says "Talk to three sets of neighbors with seven key questions." Those questions include "Why are the owners moving, have you seen any repair trucks, tell us about the neighborhood here."
Almost two dozen states require owners to disclose that their properties were once used as meth labs, and some have their own lists of those properties that cannot be removed until they are decontaminated. In the last decade, Georgia lawmakers have not introduced bills to track meth lab properties.
Since the seller is not required to disclose any information, Duffy says "Forget about any disclosure a seller gives you. Always check it on your own."
Don't assume this only happens in rundown neighborhoods. Duffy says "It happens in great neighborhoods, and it happens in not so great neighborhoods. That's why you have to do your due diligence as a buyer."
Even after a drug lab is no longer in operation, the toxins can stay for years. Children can get residue on their hands and in their mouths while crawling on floors and carpets. Vapors can also stay in heating vents or air conditioning units.