Houses constructed before 1978 are likely to contain some source of lead, be it lead-based paint or lead pipes. This is dangerous to those who live there, particularly children. To protect homebuyers, Congress passed the federal Residential Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (42 U.S. Code § 4852d), commonly referred to as Title X (Ten). It is aimed at evaluating the risk of lead poisoning in housing and taking steps to remove the hazards.
Title X is focused on older properties. If the home you plan to sell was built before 1978 (unless it's a foreclosure property sold "as is"), you must take the steps described below.
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.
Homebuyers typically include contingencies in their purchase offers specifying what conditions must be met before the real estate deal will be finalized. Contingencies typically allow a buyer to conduct inspections (which can be done by a general inspector or a specific lead-based paint inspector) 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 any needed repairs.
Home sellers who fail to comply with federal disclosure responsibilities may be sued by the buyer for damages suffered. These can be quite hefty, especially if young children have developed a lead-related health problem (over $10,000, depending on the violation). Other penalties can also be imposed.
In addition to complying with federal lead-based paint disclosure rules, be sure you comply with your state's disclosure requirements (see 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 and more.
The National Lead Information Center (NLIC) is a fine resource for information on lead hazards, prevention, disclosures, and certified lead inspectors.