Landlords are required to follow specific federal laws regarding lead-based paint disclosure. The Lead-Based Paint Hazard Act, introduced in 1992, led to strict guidelines for any homes built before 1978. These guidelines exist to protect residents from the dangers of lead-based paint. Why? Because lead-based paint can be very harmful, in particular as it starts to disintegrate and break down. What’s more, the negative health implications of ingestion or inhalation of lead are especially dangerous for children.
Due to this, landlords must perform their due diligence by presenting tenants with a lead-based paint disclosure. But this disclosure isn’t just a formality; it’s a legal requirement for landlords. Lead-based paint wasn’t entirely banned until 1978, so many older homes still contain harmful lead-based paint or paint residue.
Exposure to lead-based paint can lead to lead poisoning, which can be very dangerous and even fatal, particularly for children. The residue left by lead-based paint can have harmful health effects, and children may touch walls or paint dust and then put their hands in their mouths. This makes them more likely to ingest lead. Furthermore, their growing bodies, brains, and nervous systems are more susceptible to lead’s detrimental effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of lead poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Memory issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Fertility issues
- Joint and muscle pain
- Developmental problems
- Learning difficulties
When leasing a property that contains lead, remember that the most important thing is to ensure you are clear and communicate the hazards to tenants. You will, of course, need to jump through some legal hoops to ensure you are protected from liability as a landlord.
A lead-based paint disclosure should be part of every landlord’s leasing documents if their property is not exempt. This disclosure should state all hazardous areas that the landlord knows about. For example, if you know there is lead-based paint underneath newer coats of paint in a particular room, that must be stated. The disclosure should also state that both you and the renting party are aware of the conditions and have agreed to them. If you are concerned about accurately claiming the presence of lead-based paint, you should have an attorney write or review your disclosure.
Landlords should also include property inspection reports, as these can help residents make informed decisions. What’s more, they show that you, as a landlord, have performed your due diligence in ensuring the property has been inspected and is as safe as possible.
Landlords must also provide their residents with materials provided by the HUD and EPA that state the dangers of lead-based paints. This is to ensure that landlords are protected legally and that tenants are aware of hazards and know how to keep themselves safe.
Keep signed lead-based paint disclosures filed away safely in case you should need to reference them for legal reasons. It is a legal requirement that these disclosures are kept for a minimum of 3 years. Remember, you don’t have to have repeat tenants sign the disclosure year after year unless there have been additional hazards discovered since they originally signed. While ensuring you have your bases covered might be a bit of a hassle, it’s well worth it. Not only is lead-based paint harmful, but fines for not meeting requirements can be as much as $50,000.
When is lead-based paint disclosure required?
Lead-based paint disclosures are required for all homes built prior to 1978 unless otherwise officially exempt. If you are unsure, you may need to have your property officially inspected to determine the presence of lead-based paint.
What are the lead-based paint disclosure exemptions?
If your property falls into one of the following categories, you may be exempt from providing a lead-based paint disclosure:
- Homes built during or after 1978
- Studio apartments or homes that have no listed bedrooms
- Short-term rentals with a maximum lease of 100 days
- Senior housing that has no children in residence
- Homes where a property inspector has officially cleared any and all danger of lead-based paint
Do all homes built before 1978 have lead paint?
Homes constructed prior to 1978 likely have some lead-based paint in them. Houses built between 1960 and 1977 are less likely than older homes to contain lead-based paints, but the likelihood is still somewhat high. In the 40s and 50s, approximately 70% of homes contained lead-based paint. Because of this, it’s better not to take a risk or make an assumption that an older home does not have any lead-based paint. Sometimes, the lead-based paint may be hidden under layers of newer paint, wallpaper, or construction materials, but it is still present.
Can I sell a house with lead paint?
Yes, it’s legal to sell a house with lead-based paint, but you need to disclose your knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint. If you’re unsure, you can have your home tested, but it may be a bit pricey. Often, buyers who are aware that a home is older may request a test for lead-based paint.
Should I buy a house with lead paint?
If considering the purchase of an older home, it’s recommended that you request a lead-based paint inspection. If there are some small amounts of lead-based paint present, you can hire a professional to renovate and deal with this issue. However, larger amounts may be cause for concern, particularly if you have younger children. If you plan to buy an older home with lead-based paint, make sure you budget to have it dealt with appropriately before moving in. You cannot always just paint over lead-based paint, so take extreme caution. And remember, if you go to sell the home, it may affect decisions made by future buyers.