Seller Responsibility to Disclose Lead-Based Paint Hazards
Exposure to lead-based paint may lead to serious health problems, such as brain damage or attention disorders in children.
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The federal Residential Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (U.S. Code Sec 4852d), commonly referred to as Title X (Ten), is aimed at evaluating the risk of lead poisoning in housing and taking steps to remove the hazards. Since houses constructed before 1978 are likely to contain some source of lead, be it lead-based paint or lead pipes, Title X is focused on these older properties. If your home was built before 1978 (unless it’s a foreclosure property sold “as is”), you must take the following steps.
Seller Responsibilities to Disclose Lead Paint Hazards
Selling a house or condo built before 1978? Here are your responsibilities to disclose lead-based paint and other sources of lead to prospective buyers.
- 1. Disclose lead-based paint and other lead hazards. You must give prospective buyers (before they sign a contract to buy your house) any known information and available reports you have on lead paint hazards on your property (interior and exterior, from lead-based paint on the living room windowsill to lead -contaminated soil in the backyard). The federal Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) has a form available for this purpose: Disclosure of Information on Led-Based Paint and /or Lead Based Paint Hazards, available on the EPA website. The law does not require sellers to test or remove lead-based paint, but to disclose information they know about to prospective buyers.
- 2. Give buyers an EPA pamphlet on lead hazards. Sellers must give buyers an EPA-prepared pamphlet, Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home. This pamphlet includes information on the health effects of lead, how to identify lead-based paint hazards, and how to reduce or eliminate lead hazards. The buyer must acknowledge receipt of this pamphlet and information on lead-based paint hazards on the EPA disclosure form mentioned above. The pamphlet is available in many different languages on the EPA website. Sellers must keep a signed acknowledgment of their disclosures for at least three years from the date of the sale
- 3. Provide buyers 10 days to conduct their own lead-based risk assessment or inspection. If the buyer and seller mutually agree, this 10-day period may be lengthened, shortened, or waived. In most states, only certified professionals may do lead abatement work.
Buyers typically include contingencies in their offers specifying what conditions must be met before the real estate deal will be finalized. Contingencies typically allow a buyer to conduct inspections (which may be a general inspection or a specific lead-based paint inspection) and to back out of the agreement if the buyer doesn’t like the results or can’t agree with the seller on how to deal with needed repairs.
Penalties for Seller Failure to Disclose Lead Hazards
Sellers who fail to comply with federal disclosure responsibilities may be sued by the buyer for damages suffered (these may be quite hefty, especially if young children have developed a lead-related health problem), among other penalties (over $10,000, depending on the violation). See Nolo’s Lawyer Directory for local lawyers who handle these types of lawsuits (check the Personal Injury) category.
See the Nolo article Lead Paint in Your Home for an overview of health hazards resulting from lead hazards in the home and personal injury lawsuits that may result.
More Information on Seller Responsibility to Disclose Lead Hazards
The National Lead Information Center (NLIC) is the best resource for information on lead hazards, prevention, and disclosures. You also get information here on certified lead inspectors.
State Lead-Based Paint Rules and Programs
In addition to complying with federal lead-based paint disclosure rules, be sure you comply with your state’s disclosure requirements (see the Nolo article Required Disclosures When Selling U.S. Real Estate).
Many states have lead-based paint activities of interest to home buyers and sellers. To find yours, check the EPA website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has useful information on state programs and legislation. See the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead for details.