CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A Cherokee County home sits empty right now because the family that bought it found out it was toxic.
Tests show the home was previously a meth lab and Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland found out the law is of little help to the home buyers, Hollis and Natalie Reece.
"We bid $10,000 over what they had it on the market for and we got it," Natalie Reece told Strickland.
That was in June 2016. Renters had been evicted six months earlier.
Strickland asked Hollis Reece how many nights he and his family have spent in the house.
"Zero. None," Reece replied.
The house sits vacant and tainted. Several trailers in the driveway hold the Reece's belongings.
They were about to move in when a next door neighbor, Kimberley Partain, warned them about frequent noxious odors emanating from the house.
"Whatever it was, it would burn your nose and your throat and your eyes and we would bring the kids inside," Partain told Strickland. Strickland asked Partain if she had any suspicions as to what the smell was.
"That it could have been a meth lab or some kind of drug lab," Partain said.
"We've spent like $1,700 on meth testing for this house to know that's unsuitable to live in," Hollis Reece said.
Inside the house, methamphetamine test markers are still stuck to the walls and ceilings. Georgia has no established safe meth exposure level. Tennessee has one: 0.1 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Tests revealed the Reece's air ducts are seven times that. Their kitchen cabinets are 22 times higher.
"The fear of my health is not as bad as my kids or my grandkids. That's what I worry about," Hollis Reece said.
"I would not let any family live inside this home," meth cleanup expert Gordy Powell told Strickland.
Powell says it would cost $30,000 to apply the industrial grade foam that sucks out the toxins. Along with that, the HVAC unit, kitchen cabinets and carpet would have to be removed.
"There's probably on the soft number an additional $20,000 to $30,000 on remodel," Powell said.
"I feel like we were cheated," Hollis Reece said.
Partain swore out an affidavit that she warned the previous owner the house was likely a meth lab months before the Reece's bought it.
"Any latent or hidden defect in the property must be disclosed by the seller," Seth Weismann said.
Weissman is general counsel for the Georgia Association of Realtors. They just put a specific meth disclosure in their sales papers, but accusing a seller in court of keeping meth secret costs thousands too.
"Your legal recourse may be strong but if it costs a lot of money to pursue it may be a difficult situation," Weissman said.
The Reece's attorney demanded the seller, Rodger Davis, refund the purchase price and warned that his staying silent constitutes fraud.
Strickland traveled to San Angelo, Texas, to find Davis. Strickland asked Davis if he as any apologies to make to the Reece family for selling them a house contaminated with meth.
"I didn't know it was a meth house. Please leave," Davis told Strickland at his front door.
Strickland showed him a copy of the affidavit from Partain.
"I don't care what she says," Davis said before closing his door.
The Reeces, who continue to make payments on a house they can't live in, fear they may have to choose between declaring bankruptcy and foreclosure. Hollis Reece said his patience is waning.
"I'm getting to the point that I'm losing hope," Hollis Reece said.
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