Friday, February 05, 2010

No one should go broke....

I've been planning this post for a while, and then I just heard a comment on the radio from President Obama. He said that "no one should go broke, because they happen to get sick in this country." This is based on his pitch for health care. I thought, that the same thing applies in this situation.

My post focuses on a young couple, the Holts,  who were following the American dream. They bought a house and were raising their family. Unfortunately, their dream became a nightmare. Their children developed breathing problems to the point that their middle child was forced to take the heaviest dose of steroids a toddler could take. Mom developed migraines, dad - kidney problems. Almost five years after they bought the home, they found the source of the problems - methamphetamine. The previous occupant of the home had been dragged out of the attic by police and busted for making meth.

Meth fumes can permeate the drywall, carpet, insulation and air ducts and in this case, caused the Holts' illnesses. Cleanup of their home will cost about $30,000. The article where I found all of this information (here) detailed two other situations that were similar. Two other families' lives wrecked. To paraphrase the president - "No one should go broke in pursuit of the American dream."

Now the Holts clearly are not at fault in their situation (based on the story anyway), but who is at fault and who will pay for the cleanup? Clearly the previous occupant is at fault, but he's in jail and can't pay for the cleanup. It's not clear if they had a home inspection that should have shown the problem, but after five years, you would begin to wonder about limits of liability and statutes of limitations. They probably have a mortgage, they could walk away and leave the bank holding the meth house. But then why should the bank lose their investment? Home owner's insurance doesn't cover meth lab clean-up.

It's clear to me this is a problem and no one should go broke. The Holts have reached out to their community and the community is helping some, but new hospital visits and sporadic donations have limited their financial recovery. So, where do they go from here?

I'm afraid I don't have an answer, but I do know something that isn't the answer. I know this isn't a federal problem. The state has a mandate (through Medicaid) to provide medical assistance to the needy. The bank who holds the mortgage took some risk when they loaned the Holts money for the house, they should step up to some of the responsibility. But the majority of the burden will (and should) fall on the Holts, who through no fault of their own, made a very bad choice in homes.

As compassionate Christians, we should reach out to help people like the Holts. No one should go broke. But that doesn't mean the federal government should step in. The meth house clean-up or to health care.


David said...

If the person who sold the house was aware of its past and didn't disclose that information to the couple, I see no reason why they shouldn't be help liable for all damages.

Randy said...

David, I would agree with you, but in this case, they previous owner is in jail. You can't get blood from a stone..