One of my tenants is worried that there’s a radon problem in the house he’s renting from me. How do I handle this?
Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is associated with lung cancer, is invisible and odorless, so it’s not always easy to know whether it’s present in a house or other rental property. While high levels of radon have been detected in every state (see the EPA Map of Radon Zones for details), radon problems occur most frequently in areas where rocky soil is relatively rich in uranium.
Here are some tips on how to respond to your tenant’s concern about radon:
- Let your tenant know (in writing) that you will investigate his concern about radon. Try to do this as soon as possible.
- Learn about radon. Check out the radon section of the EPA’s website which has extensive advice on reducing radon in the home; be sure to see EPA publications such as A Citizen’ Guide to Radon and Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction. Call the EPA’s radon hotline, 800-SOSRADON (800-767-7236), with your specific radon questions.
- Test for radon in the rental house. Inexpensive do-it-yourself radon test kits are available to test the air in your rental unit. Make sure you buy a kit that says “Meets EPA Requirements.” Testing for radon takes at least three days. Your state radon contact can provide more information on testing, including lists of professional radon testers.
- If radon is a major problem where you live, as documented by a certified tester, keeping it out of the rental property is your responsibility. A significant radon presence renders your rental "uninhabitable,” and it’s your legal responsibility to offer and maintain habitable rentals. If you fail to handle a major radon problem, tenant options include moving out or withholding rent. Good ventilation will disperse radon gas in most situations; this may be as simple as using fans and opening the windows to provide cross-ventilation (really only a temporary solution), or as complex, as sucking radon out of the soil before it enters the foundation and venting it into the air above the door through a pipe. According to the EPA, a typical household radon problem can be solved for $500 to $2,500.
For more on the topic, see the Nolo article Landlord Responsibility for Radon in Rental Housing.