ALLEGAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Tara Gallihugh thought she was buying the home of her dreams — then she learned it had been ordered vacated by the health department because it had been a meth house.
The Allegan Township house seemed perfect to Gillihugh. It has a large yard for her dogs to run around and a place outside to dry her laundry. She had already moved in before she learned from neighbors that methamphetamine had previously been cooked there.
“I was so upset,” she said. “Just so frustrated and upset and worried, because I live here now.”
About a year before Gallihugh moved in, a previous homeowner got a letter from the Allegan County Health Department. It ordered the residence be vacated because of meth contamination in both the house and the backyard. It required decontamination to be safe for habitation.
Then the house was foreclosed upon. It was sold twice. It was painted and cleaned. But it was never decontaminated.
Gallihugh was an unsuspecting first-time buyer, but she did her due diligence. She had the house checked out and visited by the Allegan County Health Department — the same department that issued the vacate order.
She thought she was safe to move in until she started digging and found the truth.
“It starts to play with your head,” she said. “You’re stressing about it. Is it safe for me to be going home to this house?”
She wasn’t the only one surprised.
“I was shocked because normally we get notification from the health department on those,” Township Supervisor Steve Schultz said.
Some paperwork must have fallen though somewhere, he said.
So Target 8 went to the health department for some answers.
“We sent the notice out to the owner to tell him to vacate it,” Allegan County Director of Environmental Health William Hinz said.
But how could a health department officer could go to the property and not mention the order to vacate? Hinz said the officer should have seen it in the file.
Target 8 asked to see that order and discovered the problem.
“It doesn’t look like a copy of that methamphetamine letter made it in to the file,” Hinz said.
He said he didn’t know how that happened.
“Normally they’re filed,” he said.
Vacate letters because of meth are becoming more and more common. Countywide, Allegan has had 57. Nine of them are among Allegan Township’s 1,400 homes. The county also keeps track of how many have been decontaminated and are ready for occupancy again. That’s a much thinner file. For Allgean Township, only one has been cleaned up.
What now for Gallihugh? Target 8 asked Hinz if there’s anything the county can do to help her.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
That’s the same response Gallihugh and her dad have been getting all around.
“She thought she did everything right,” Carl Gallihugh said. “She said she’s been emotional, but it’s been real hell.”
“They feel sorry for you but they have no way of guiding you to what to do next,” Tara Gallihugh said.
The test to find out if the house is meth-free can cost $1,000 — money Gallihugh says she doesn’t have.
The previous homeowner who sold the house to Gallihugh said he had no idea about the meth issue.