Lead from paint, dust and soil can be dangerous, if not managed properly. Lead exposure represents a health risk to most people, especially young children and babies on the way. The Federal Government has recognized the dangers associated with lead and has adopted new disclosure requirements related to lead based paints and lead based paint hazards. If you are buying or selling a home built prior to 1978, the regulations apply to you. For the sale of real estate, the regulations require a seller or the seller’s real estate agent to provide the potential buyer with the Lead Hazard Information Pamphlet published by the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). The seller must disclose to the buyer, in writing, the presence of any known lead based paint or any lead based paint hazards. The real estate contract between the parties must permit the buyer a ten day period to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead based paint hazards. The contract must also contain a lead warning statement published by the Federal Government, outlining the potential harms resulting from lead ingestion. The new rules also apply to providing similar information from a landlord to his/her tenant.The rules apply to housing built prior to 1978, since residential use of lead based paint was banned for post-1977 housing. Keep in mind that the new regulations require disclosure. The regulations do not require abatement (that is, removal) of the lead based paint or paint hazard.
If you are a seller or landlord however, you will be required to complete a lead warning statement, indicating the following:
– Whether you have any knowledge of lead based paint and/or lead based paint hazards being present in the housing; – Whether you have knowledge of any available records or reports pertaining to lead based paint and/or lead based paint hazards in the housing.
If you have reports, or if you have knowledge of lead based paint or lead based paint hazards, you must acknowledge their existence and make them available. If you do not properly disclose the information, you could be subject to significant fines and penalties. In addition, a potential buyer or tenant could sue you and recover an amount equal to three times the buyer’s damages together with court costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees and expert witness fees.
Lead based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. However, peeling, cracking or flaking lead based paint is a hazard and will need attention. Areas of concern include windows and window sills; doors and door frames; stairs, rails and banisters; and porches and fences. As stated above, this is a disclosure law and not an abatement law. Thus, as long as a buyer is given full and honest disclosure and is given an opportunity to inspect for lead based paint hazards, you will not be held liable for violation of the rules. However, if are aware of lead based paint hazards and want to have them abated, it is in your best interests to have a licensed professional remove the hazard. The informational guide provided by the EPA entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” recommends that you do not try to remove lead based paint yourself. In the interim, if you see paint chips, clean them up immediately and likewise, thoroughly clean all surfaces (such as floors, window frames and window sills) on a regular basis. Be sure to thoroughly clean all cleaning implements.
Finally, especially if you have children, if you believe lead based hazards exist in your home, consult a physician. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for children who are six months to one year old and other family members who you might think have high levels of lead. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
James Delia practices land use at WJLP.