Can I Sue My Landlord for Lead-Based Paint Hazards?

Landlords must disclose known lead-based paint hazards in rentals.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

The federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X), aimed at reducing lead poisoning, requires landlords to take measures regarding lead-based paint in certain rentals, and imposes hefty penalties when landlords don't follow the law.

Some Landlords Must Make Disclosures About Lead-Based Paint

Landlords who rent properties built before 1978 must:

  • give prospective tenants (and renewing tenants) the Environmental Protection Agency's form Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home
  • disclose any information they know about lead-based paint in the building (for multiunit buildings, this includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation), and
  • provide a "Lead Warning Statement" as either an attachment to the lease or as part of the lease, confirming the landlord has given tenants all necessary notifications.

Some types of properties are exempt from Title X.

Potential Injuries Resulting From Exposure to Lead-Based Paint

Exposure to lead can result in serious health problems, especially in children and pregnant women. Behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia have all been associated with lead poisoning. In rare cases, ingestion can result in death.

What Are the Penalties for Landlords Who Don't Disclose Lead-Based Paint?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development can fine landlords who knowingly don't follow Title X. The maximum penalty for failure to disclose is $21,018. (24 C.F.R. § 30.65 (2024).) Landlords who don't comply might also be subject to other civil fines and, possibly, criminal charges. These fines don't typically go to victims, though. Instead, if you're looking to receive compensation for your injuries, you'll probably have to sue your landlord.

Suing Your Landlord for Injuries From Lead-Based Paint

As a tenant, if you suspect that your rental contains lead-based paint, you can get a lead hazard inspection to test your suspicions. When landlords have knowledge about lead-based paint but don't disclose it, tenants who suffer injuries can sue their landlord for their damages (such as medical costs from lead poisoning). If the court finds that the landlord knowingly didn't follow Title X, the court can award the tenants up to three times the amount of their damages, and can also award court costs and attorneys' fees to the tenants.

If you have not received the required information booklet or disclosure statement, start by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers resources to learn about lead hazards, testing your child, finding a trained lead inspector, and more.

If you, your child, or another person in your rental home becomes ill with lead poisoning, contact a personal injury lawyer for advice on whether or not to sue your landlord for damages such as medical expenses and loss of income. Although you could sue your landlord without the assistance of a lawyer, in most personal injury cases it pays to hire one—proving medical injuries require obtaining expert testimony, which can be complicated. Also, many lawyers who handle personal injury cases get paid on contingency, meaning that they get paid only if you receive a settlement or award.

Be Aware of Other Potential Sources of Lead in Your Rental

Title X addresses concerns about poisoning from lead-based paint, which is indeed the most common source of lead poisoning in rentals. However, lead can be found in many other substances and products. For example, lead can be found in old pipes, household products (even some toys), and even ceramic tile on your floor or countertop. Most of the time, this lead isn't harmful unless it becomes airborne (perhaps from renovations) or starts to deteriorate.

Because Title X addresses only lead-based paint, it doesn't require landlords to disclose lead from other sources. However, local or state laws might require disclosure. Look for laws that require landlords to disclose known hazards—lead might fall under the law's definition of a known hazard.

If you suspect that you've been poisoned by lead in your rental—regardless of whether it's from lead-based paint or another lead source—seek medical help, and look into testing for lead in your rental. A local personal injury lawyer can evaluate whether you might have a case against your landlord.

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