A law sponsored by Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, went into effect Jan. 1. The law protects buyers of foreclosed homes being sold “as-is” at auction by requiring written disclosure of whether the home has been tested for toxic residue from previously being used as a meth lab.

moving in new homeWhitsett sponsored the bill after a family in her district became ill and discovered their newly purchased home had been a meth lab.

Jonathan Hankins, 33, and his wife Beth, 29, were initially pleased to get a good deal on a foreclosed home in Klamath Falls, near the California border. They purchased the home for $36,500 through HomeSteps, a Freddie Mac listing service.

After renovating the 2-bedroom, 850-square foot home in early June of 2014, they moved in in time for the 4th of July.

The Hankins were puzzled when they and their now 3-year-old son began feeling ill. “We mostly experienced extreme dry mouth and had mouth sores, making it extremely painful to even drink water,” Mr. Hankins said. The family also experienced terrible headaches.

After neighbors informed the couple they suspected the home had previously been an illegal meth lab, the Hankins contacted Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac now plans to update its policies to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The Hankins started a petition on change.org to “stop selling former meth labs to unsuspecting buyers.” After collecting over 212,000 signatures, the couple presented it to Freddie Mac.

“After speaking to the Hankins and hearing their concerns first hand we were able to work closely together and come to a mutually agreeable resolution,” according to a statement by Freddie Mac. “We will continue to review and update our policies to protect our buyers and their confidence in HomeSteps homes.”

Freddie Mac did not know about the home’s history when the family purchased it.

“If we had, such information absolutely would have been disclosed,” Freddie Mac previously said. “We strongly encourage buyers to inspect homes and to conduct any tests they want to before making a purchase decision.”

“We’re certainly grateful for Change.org and all of our supporters,” Jonathan Hankins said about the settlement. “We don’t feel like we would have gotten this far without them. We’re also thankful to Freddie Mac [for] working with us once they were aware of our concerns.”

Rep. Whitsett introduced House bill 4065 last year, which was signed into law and went into effect Jan. 1. The law requires foreclosed and auctioned homes being sold “as-is” to be tested for meth or have a posting stating that the house has not been tested.

“A lot of people don’t think about it,” Whitsett said. “If you buy a home, it’s not something that comes to the forefront. You don’t necessarily think about methamphetamine.”

“Our goal is that we will be tireless advocates for future homebuyers so they don’t have to face the same nightmare that we have,” Jonathan Hankins said.

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.