Landlords: Don’t Forget Lead Paint Disclosures

by Chris on June 3, 2020

Every month, landlords across the country face penalties for failing to provide lead paint disclosures. Many are unaware that they have violated the law.

The most likely landlords to be affected by these rules are those who have purchased an older property as an investment, and those who are renting out their own homes for the first time. But any landlord can run afoul of these rules.

Contributing factors for this failure include the widespread use of unvetted lease agreements, like those found online and utilized without a nod from a local landlord attorney.

In 2020, we don’t tend to think about lead paint, which was banned from use in 1978. However, those properties where lead paint was installed still are in service, and still present a hazard. Lead paint is, of course, a danger, especially for young children. It can cause life-threatening injuries and often causes brain damage in young victims, rendering them incapable of becoming self-sufficient adults.

Because of the threat posed by lead paint, the federal government has imposed a burden on landlords to provide information to tenants to help avoid those injuries. These rules also apply to real estate sales.

Some states have added their own rules to the federal guidelines, and landlords and investors who are unfamiliar with the requirements need to research which rules apply to them. In some cases, abatement of the lead paint may be required. Investors will want to know the scope of the problem before purchasing a rental property.

While the lead paint disclosure rules apply to virtually all private and government-subsidized housing, these rules only come into play with older buildings, those built before 1978.

In those properties, landlords must supply rental applicants with Lead Paint Disclosures and the pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home available from the EPA, unless the state requires something different. Those who do not could face fines, even if no injury from lead paint is reported.

Those fines are nothing to brush off. A landlord in California was assessed over $500,000, a New Jersey landlord $1 million. It is common for smaller landlord businesses to be hit with fines of $13,000 – $45,000. And again, those fines can be assessed simply for failure to provide the disclosures, even if no injury is reported.

There are only a few exceptions to these rules for landlords. Studio apartments, short-term rentals, senior and special care homes, and rooms in the owner’s house are not covered by the federal rules. Assume that everyone else is. The only other option to providing the disclosures is to undergo an inspection and obtain certification that the property is lead-free.

Landlords who are aware of specific lead paint hazards are required to point those out to rental applicants. Disclosures, including the EPA requirements, must be provided prior to signing a lease.

Remodeling presents additional challenges in these properties because of the risk of releasing lead paint dust into the air. Contractors are required to follow special abatement rules.

But aside from the EPA rules, landlords with older buildings should focus on preventing injuries. The jury verdicts for these cases are alarming, far greater than the fines, because victims tend to be children and the injuries are catastrophic. Multi-million dollar awards are foreseeable. In some cases, these damages are not covered by insurance.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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