Lead-based paint and heavy metal poisoning are one hazard that the government will expect landlords either to have professionally removed or disclose before renting out the property to tenants. This is going to be especially vital for tenants who are renting with children. Children suffering serious injuries due to lead poisoning has to be a landlord’s worst nightmare. Especially if the landlord did not disclose that information to his or her tenants before renting the property.
The law involving lead-based paint is established at the Federal level. This does not, however, prevent state and local ordinances from imposing stiffer fines or making the thresholds for culpability lower.
If you’re a landlord buying or renting older houses, it’s your responsibility to determine whether or not there is lead in the paint. This fact must be disclosed according to Title X Residential and Lead-Based Paint Act of 1992.
There are some properties that are not covered by Title X. Those include:
For obvious reasons, lead-based paint disclosures are designed to protect children from potential lead poisoning. The general rule of thumb is, if a child cannot or is not expected to live on the premises, then the landlord would be in the clear for disclosure. This includes vacation spots, single room apartments, and senior living facilities.
One of the reasons why the fines and regulations on lead-based paint disclosure are as heavy-handed as they are is due to the fact that lead toxicity can have a severe and lifelong impact on the development of children. In other words, many of the problems that are caused by lead poisoning may not be reversible.
Children who are affected may suffer from lifelong learning disabilities and developmental delay. On top of that, they may experience:
Lead poisoning can cause problems during pregnancy as well, including premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage.
While children are primarily impacted by lead poisoning, adults can be affected too. Adults can experience abnormally high blood pressure, muscle and joint pain, abdominal pain, mood disturbances, and low sperm count.
Landlords renovating properties that were built prior to January 1, 1978, must disclose lead hazard information to any and all occupants of the property at the time of the renovation. This includes apartment complexes where common spaces are being renovated. All tenants that would be affected by the lead hazard must be informed within 60 days of the renovation. If it’s a common area that’s being affected, then the landlord must distribute a notice to every occupant in the building.
The EPA defines a “renovation” as any disturbing of a painted surface under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA also provides a pamphlet that must be handed out to tenants before the renovations begin. The title of the pamphlet is: “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home”.
Lead is not the only potential health hazard one can find in a home. On top of lead, landlords can be held liable for asbestos as well. OSHA is the agency responsible for setting the standards concerning asbestos. The landlord is responsible for testing, disclosure, and maintenance of all buildings constructed before 1981.
If you’re a landlord who is renting an older home the responsibility to inform your tenants about the possible dangers in your home falls squarely on your shoulders. In addition, the EPA is quite specific about how this is supposed to be done.
Before either signing or renewing any form of rental agreement, a landlord must disclose any knowledge of lead paint or other hazardous chemicals or materials on the property. In this instance, a landlord claiming that they didn’t know about a potential hazard will not save them from negligence liability. As a landlord, it’s your job to know.
The procedure for disclosing the presence of hazardous materials in a rental property is a formal process. It requires that both you and your tenant sign off on the disclosure. An example form for this process can be found on the EPA’s website. The landlord is then required to keep the signed copy of the disclosure with their rental documents for the next three years.
In addition, the landlord is required to provide every tenant with the EPA approved pamphlet that discusses the dangers of lead paint. That can be downloaded and printed for free from here.
What are the penalties for failing to comply with this regulation?
They’re steep. The state will fine landlords $16,000 per violation. In addition, if a tenant is insured because of undisclosed lead poisoning, the landlord will be liable up to three times their total damages.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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