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Couple warns renters to beware after state meth laws fall short

By Jennifer Stagg  |  Posted Nov 18th, 2009 @ 10:00pm


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WEST JORDAN -- New parents Adam and Rachel Spencer are crazy about their baby girl, Zoey. But they told KSL News they're haunted by the actions of someone they've never met.

"She's such a happy little baby," Rachel said. "I was so angry that people could be so careless."

Adam and Rachel married in May of 2006 and thought they found a modest apartment in a large West Jordan complex. They signed the lease and moved in, but it wasn't at all what they expected.

"The apartment was so filthy and dirty. We had no idea what it was," Rachel said.

She said they scrubbed down the entire home, but what they thought was dirt always came back.

"There was the black oil that would seep through the walls; and no matter what you did to the wall, you couldn't clean it off," Rachel said.

Soon, they started coming down with bizarre and frightening symptoms. Adam broke out in hives so severe they covered his body and cut off his airway. Rachel started having terrible headaches, and then came the memory loss.

"We couldn't remember things. Our memory was horrible. We would be in the middle of a conversation or a phone call, and you couldn't remember who you were talking to or what you were talking about," Adam said.

The Spencers hired a company to test the apartment for everything they could think of--mold, allergens.

"We had them test for meth too, and then it came back positive," Adam said.

They had to move out and forfeit everything they owned--it was all contaminated. When they approached the apartment managers, they didn't get much help.

"They pretty much said, ‘We're not going to do anything. We're victims just like you are,'" Adam said.

According to the current meth law in Utah, House Bill 404, property owners or landlords have to disclose knowledge of a meth contaminated property. In the Spencer's case, the landlords claimed they didn't know anyone had used or cooked meth in the apartment. [CLICK HERE for a detailed explanation of Utah's meth lab disclosure law]

It cost the Spencers $45 to test the apartment for meth; something they think should have been done before they moved in. [Click the extra video clip above to see what Frasisca Blanc with the Utah Housing Coalition had to say about the Spencers' story]

"Forty-five dollars for a test would have changed our lives and saved us so much heartache and pain, as well as physical illness," Adam said.

KSL News took their story to the State Capitol, and the legislators over their district in West Jordan.

"If that House Bill 404 created some legislation that left some holes in the disclosure aspect and the cleanup aspect, we need to seriously look at and address it," said Rep. Stephen Mascaro.

Sen. Chris Buttars said, "Everybody that is buying a house, leasing a house, an apartment, a tent, whatever; if you're going to do it for commercial gain, the person that's renting that facility should have to certify it's safe."

Both Mascaro and Buttars said they will look into amending House Bill 404 or creating a new bill that requires landlords to test properties in between renters to assure homes and apartments are safe.

Meanwhile, it's taken nearly three years for the Spencers to get their health back in order, but they told us they are now left with a lifetime of side-effects.

Rachel said last year she suffered a miscarriage. When she finally got pregnant again, they discovered little Zoey would have multiple, severe heart defects and could possibly need a heart transplant.

Doctors won't say for sure whether Zoey's condition is because of Rachel's meth exposure, but the Spencers said they're sure it is.

"We have no idea how this affected us, and nor will we know how it's going to affect us later down the road," Rachel said.

An attorney for the apartment complex said the complex acted quickly to clean up the apartment as soon as they learned it was contaminated and acted within the law.

If you're worried your home may be contaminated, CLICK HERE for a list of contractors who perform meth tests.


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