As a landlord, Home Seller, REALTOR® or Property Manager, it’s important that you’re aware of your responsibilities and obligations –to make sure you’re following both federal and state regulations to maintain compliance with the law.
One particular issue that should be of special concern to those involved with leasing or selling homes is the presence of lead-based paint in a property.
Excessive blood lead levels can present a serious health risk, leaving small children especially at risk. Lead exposure in children can produce permanent nervous system damage. In fact, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, lead poisoning is “the number one environmental health hazard facing American children.”
Lead-based paint is the most common home-based source of lead exposure. This exposure usually comes from deteriorating lead-based paint and the subsequent dust it creates.
For Home Sellers. REALTORS®, Property Managers, and landlords ensuring that you take the appropriate steps to disclose any lead that’s found in your property are vital. Not only for maintaining compliance with the law, but also for helping to keep tenants and home buyers safe from the serious and irreversible health effects that lead exposure can cause.
Selling and Buying a Home With Lead Paint: What You Need to Know
By: Bill Gassett
Lead-Based Paint: Banned Since 1978
Lead-based paint is often found in older residential properties built before 1978.
So if your rental property was built prior to 1978, there’s a good chance that it might contain lead-based paint.
Lead was once added to paints as it helped to accelerate drying times, increased durability, and helped with maintaining a fresh look.
However, much like asbestos, what was at one point thought to be a great idea to improve construction materials ended up proving to be a serious health hazard.
We now know that this paint poses serious health risks, especially for children; and thankfully, since 1978, the manufacture of lead-based paint has been banned in the U.S.
Lead Poisoning: Symptoms and Dangers
Lead poisoning happens when too much lead gets into the body through the skin or if it is inhaled or swallowed.
Lead poisoning can cause symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
In the longer term, lead poisoning can affect almost every organ and system in the body, but the main target for lead toxicity, according to the CDC, is the nervous system. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, even seizures, coma, and death. However, it’s easy for lead poisoning to go undetected, as it often occurs with no obvious symptoms.
Children generally show signs of lead toxicity at much lower levels than adults. There are a number of factors that contribute to this sensitivity. First of all their growing bodies absorb more lead, secondly, their developing brain and nervous systems are much more susceptible to lead’s damaging effects. Additionally, the behavior of children with crawling and teething at this age means that they’ll be in contact with any lead that may be present nearby.
Lead also presents a risk for unborn children as well. Lead is able to cross the placental barrier which means that pregnant women who have been exposed to lead can also expose their unborn child. Lead can cause damage to a developing baby’s nervous system. Even low levels of exposure to lead in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can also cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility in both men and women.
Lead is generally absorbed into the human body in a couple of different ways. Cracking and peeling lead-based paint chips are often eaten by children or dust from deteriorating paint or areas in and around the moving parts of doors and windows often end up on hands or in the air where it can be inhaled or ingested.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Lead Poisoning Prevention Program compiles information on the number and location of children found to have elevated blood levels. Between 1996 and 2000, approximately 3% of all children tested statewide had elevated blood lead levels. In one particular neighborhood in Denver, over 16% of the children tested were found to have elevated blood lead levels. (Source)
Wellington Florida REALTOR® and friend of SpringsHomes Michelle Gibson has written a first-hand accounting of her experience with Heavy Metal or Lead Poisoning.
572 Days After My Diagnosis and What I’ve Learned on My Journey
By: Michelle Gibson
Testing for Lead-Based Paint
If your property was built prior to 1978 then there’s a good chance it could contain some lead-based paint.
Of course, the older the home, the more likely the chances are you will find lead-based paint, especially in some of the older layers.
There are only three EPA-recognized lead test kits available.
These three kits are:
- 3M™ LeadCheck™
- State of Massachusetts
Learn more about these kits here. While the Massachusetts lead test kit is only available there, the other two options; 3M LeadCheck and D-Lead, are only around $10 each and can be optioned on Amazon, Walmart, or Lowes.
It’s worth noting, that in order to obtain EPA recognition, a lead paint test kit must produce a positive or negative result 95 percent of the time. However, if you’d like even more reassurance, you can test the same area twice. Doing so lowers the chance of a false positive from 1 in 20 to 1 in 400, as long as both tests are conducted properly, and return the same result.
If Lead Is Found
You can use the EPA’s locator to find a certified inspector or risk assessor to conduct a thorough assessment of your home.
Once professional testing is complete, review the written report provided to you or ask your inspector or assessor for their recommendations. In most cases, you should either seek an abatement professional to remove all lead completely or come up with a strict maintenance plan to help prevent exposure.
In cases where a long-term maintenance plan is recommended rather than abatement, you’ll be given a set of instructions –that will include regular inspections. In the case of renovations, you’ll be required to work with only lead-safe certified home contractors, as they will be able to perform the work in a safe and responsible way.
While an inspection is an investigation to determine whether there is lead-based paint in a home, a risk assessment is an investigation that is carried out in order to determine the presence, type, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards (including lead hazards in paint, dust, and soil). (Source)
A risk assessment will also provide suggested ways to control the risks, giving you a clear idea on what steps you should take to combat the problem, and reduce the risk.
It’s important to note that risk assessments can only be legally performed by certified risk assessors.
Abatement: Solutions for Safely Dealing With Lead-Based Paint
If lead abatement is deemed to be the best option, there are a few options available; encapsulation, enclosure, removal, or replacement.
- Encapsulation-Encapsulation is generally the simplest method for dealing with lead-based paint. With this method, a special paint-like coating known as lead paint encapsulation creates a watertight bond and seals in the lead-based paint. Keep in mind, however, that opening and closing doors and windows eventually may wear off the coating. This is not a permanent solution.
- Enclosure-With enclosing, the old surface is covered over with an entirely new one, so walls could be covered with drywall and window sills with vinyl or aluminum cladding. While this is a long-term solution, it’s not permanent. As if the enclosed surface is ever removed, you’ll have to deal with the exposed lead surfaces underneath.
- Removal-Removal should only be done by a lead-safe certified home contractor. With removal, a number of approaches are used including wire brushing or wet scraping with liquid paint remover or in some cases, wet sanding with an electric sander that’s equipped with a HEPA filtered vacuum.
- Replacement-Replacement is the most thorough strategy, which involves taking out all of the lead-based paint surfaces, and installing new walls, windows, doors, etc.
Disclosing Lead-Based Paint: Seller, REALTOR® and Landlord Responsibilities
Home Sellers and Landlords are required to disclose lead-based paint and other hazards before entering into any contract with a buyer or tenant –or renovating a property. Landlords may also be held liable for tenant health problems, resulting from lead exposure as well.
Due to the health hazards that lead presents, the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act was enacted in 1992. This law is also known as Title X (Ten). These regulations apply to rental property built before 1978.
- Under Title X, before ratifying any contract a landlord or seller must disclose any known lead-based paint or hazards on the property.
- The sellers and buyers or the landlord and tenant must both also sign an EPA-approved disclosure form, proving that the appropriate disclosures were made as to any known lead on the premises.
- The Seller or landlord must keep this disclosure form as part of their records for three years from the date the occupancy begins.
- The Seller or landlord must give each buyer or tenant the EPA pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home,” or a state-approved version. (Learn more here).
- A Seller or landlord who fails to comply with EPA regulations could face penalties of up to $16,000 for each violation, and sellers or landlords found liable for tenant injuries from lead could have to pay three times what the tenant suffered in damages.
Precautions When Renovating: Legal Requirements
- According to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act which became effective in June 1999, landlords must take precautions when renovating a building or unit that was built before 1978.
Landlords must notify tenants before renovations take place. When a landlord or HOA plans to renovate an occupied rental unit or common areas in a building constructed before 1978, EPA regulations require that current tenants receive lead hazard information within 60 days of the date the renovation will begin. Renovations include any changes that will disturb painted surfaces, with some exceptions such as minor repairs and emergency renovations. If the renovation will be taking place in an occupied rental unit, then the landlord or contractor must give tenants in the unit a copy of the EPA pamphlet “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home.” If it will be taking place in common areas, the renovator must send out a notice to every rental unit in the building; describing the nature and location of the renovation work along with the dates that the work is expected to begin and end.
The Following Are Exempt From the Lead Paint Disclosure Rule:
- Housing constructed after January 1, 1978
- Units such as studios or lofts that contain zero bedrooms
- Rentals with a term of fewer than 100 days
- Housing that has been deemed lead free by a state certified lead inspector
- Elderly housing (62 or older) where no child under six years old resides
- Disabled housing where no child under six years old resides
Sample Lead Paint Disclosure Warnings
The HUD has provided a sample lead disclosure warning between landlord and tenant. This can be attached as a rider to your rental agreement.
Buying a Home Built Prior to 1978
If you are buying a home that was built prior to 1978 assessment and inspection is a good idea. When purchasing a home, federal law allows the buyer the opportunity to conduct assessment and testing in order to determine whether or not lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards are present.
This type of testing should be done as a part of the general home inspection process. The test is not part of a normal home inspection, so you will need to contact a specialist to add this type of inspection. Your home inspector will be able to point out what might be lead-based paint but without professional assessment or testing, you won’t know for sure.
Landlords who have any questions on lead-based paint abatement or certification are advised to contact the Air Pollution Control Division at (303) 692-3150 or via e-mail at email@example.com.