If you own a house built before 1978, and wish to either sell or rent it out, it's important to understand your obligations when it comes to the federal Lead Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program. In most cases involving housing built prior to 1978, compliance with the program is necessary. A violation of the requirements can result in hefty fines.
The hazards of lead-based paint
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that approximately three-quarters of housing built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Because the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of such paint in residential housing construction starting in 1978, post-1978 houses are largely not at risk of the associated dangers.
While lead-based paint is not considered a hazard to most adults, lead poisoning is an issue of concern for both children and pregnant women. Exposure to lead can lead to abnormal fetal development in pregnant women, while children with higher-than-normal blood-lead levels can face complications such as brain and organ damage and a potential increase in behavioral problems.
Lead-based paint disclosure exemptions
Most owners and landlords of housing constructed prior to 1978 must comply with the federal lead-based paint disclosure requirements. However, certain exemptions do apply. In addition to houses built in or after 1978, the following also qualify for an exemption from the disclosure rules:
- Dwelling units with no bedrooms, such as a studio apartment
- Dwelling units that are leased for 100 days or fewer, such as short-term rentals
- Housing specifically designated for the elderly, provided children do not also reside on the premises
- Rental units found by a certified inspector to be free of lead-based paint
If you're the owner of a house built prior to 1978, chances are you must provide a lead-based paint disclosure form when you sell or rent your property, unless you fall within one of the exemptions.
Requirements for lead-based paint disclosures
To comply with the disclosure requirements, homeowners need to do the following when selling or renting their property:
- Provide the prospective buyer or tenant with a copy of the EPA pamphlet entitled Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
- Provide disclosure of all known lead-based paint hazards in the home, including any previously obtained reports
- Include a completed lead-based paint disclosure form or lead warning statement in the contract for the sale or rental of the home, along with confirmation that you have complied with all the requirements
If selling the property, the homeowner must also provide the buyer with 10 days, or another mutually agreed-upon period of time, to conduct a lead-based paint inspection at the buyer's expense.
Homeowners who are renting property do not need to provide disclosure again when the tenant renews, unless there has been any change in the information. Where the rental property is located in a multi-unit building with rentals, the disclosure must include any lead-based paint hazards in the common areas.
Regardless of whether you're selling or renting , you should keep a copy of the signed statements for three years as proof of your compliance.
If you have lead-based paint in your home
It's important to understand that the lead-based paint requirements are about disclosure only. You are not required to have your home inspected prior to selling or renting it out. If a prospective buyer opts to do a lead-based paint inspection that reveals the existence of lead-based paint, you're not required to remove the paint.
The purpose of the disclosure is to alert a buyer or tenant to potential lead-based paint dangers in their future home. Once disclosure has been made, the parties are free to negotiate the costs of lead reduction or removal, if desired.
As the owner of a home constructed prior to 1978, you need to comply with federal lead-based paint disclosure requirements if you wish to sell or lease your home. Compliance is not onerous, but it is an important step in order to avoid fines for noncompliance and the potential of a lawsuit.