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Renting, Buying, or Renovating a Pre-1978 Home

Residential properties built before 1978 often contain lead paint. As the paint deteriorates, particles break off and turn into lead dust. This also produces lead-based paint chips. Both these things are hazardous and can cause serious health complications.

Fortunately, federal law gives some protection to consumers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act.

The EPA mandates that people renting, buying, or renovating a pre-1978 home receive information about the dangers of lead-based paint. Landlords and sellers also must take specific steps to minimize the health hazards of lead paint.


If you plan on renting an older home, ask the landlord if the building contains lead paint. Ask about lead in the drinking water. As a final step, ask the municipal clerk if there are resources for renters living in pre-1978 buildings.

Landlords of residential properties built before 1978 must give prospective tenants information about the dangers of lead-based paint before they sign a lease. An EPA-approved pamphlet gives renters advice on shielding themselves from lead-based paint hazards.

Landlords also must disclose any information regarding lead-based paint on site. This disclosure applies to common areas of multi-unit properties as well. Finally, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the lease must include a "Lead Warning Statement," confirming that the landlord has followed all the notification requirements.

Buying and Selling

Sellers of homes built before 1978 face the same obligations as landlords. The seller or real estate agent must provide an EPA-approved pamphlet before a prospective buyer can enter into a legally binding contract. They must also disclose any known information on lead-based paint dangers. The contract of sale also must have a "Lead Warning Statement."

Sellers face additional requirements that go above and beyond landlords' requirements. They must give the buyer ten days to inspect the home for lead-based paint hazards. This inspection period can be shortened or lengthened with a mutual written agreement.

The buyer has the right to inspect, but they can waive this right. If the buyer examines the home for lead-based paint, best practices dictate that he hire a certified inspector.

Renovating Property

If you plan to renovate a pre-1978 home, there are steps to ensure that renovations are conducted properly and do not release lead into the air. Federal law requires that contractors provide lead information to residents before renovating a pre-1978 home.

Before starting work, renovators must give you a pamphlet entitled "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home." You must also take steps to protect your family from lead exposure. Property owners must take these precautions as much as they want to renovate after purchasing their home.

These steps include the following:

  • Get a lead inspection. Have the area tested for lead-based paint. Conduct a risk assessment before you do any work. A lead professional can come to your home and use a commercial lead test kit to determine if your property threatens public health.
  • If lead is present in your home, contact a lead abatement specialist. They will confirm your property is safe before you renovate, repair, and paint.
  • Do not use a belt sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or sandpaper when removing lead paint. These methods create a large amount of paint dust and fumes. At a minimum, use a wet mopping process to eliminate excess dust.
  • Temporarily move your family, especially children and pregnant women, out of the home until the contractors finish the job and adequately clean up. If your family can't move, seal the work area off for safety.
  • If your home inspection reveals the presence of lead, hire a lead remediation professional. They understand lead-safe work practices and will remove lead-based paint from your home. They'll also ensure that they remove any sources of lead as well.
  • Don't forget to have your porch tested for lead. Do the same for your windowsills and doorframes. Before doing any renovation, check the entire property.

Recommendations for Workers Renovating Pre-1978 Homes

You must be careful if you're a contractor and work on properties with lead. Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). If you encounter any lead, report it to the homeowner immediately.

Avoid touching lead paint chips with your bare hands. Always wear gloves, regardless of the levels of lead. Also, treat the property the way you would your own home. You don't want your client to develop health problems if you can help it.

You may have to file a workers' compensation claim if you work for a construction company and contract lead poisoning. You may be entitled to medical care and replacement wages while you recover.

Disposing of Waste Containing Lead-Based Paint

If you have cans of lead-based paint in your home, you must dispose of them. There are rules set forth by the EPA clarifying that homeowners and contractors can dispose of lead-based paint waste as they would dispose of other household garbage.

The EPA intends to keep the disposal requirements simple, low-cost, and efficient to encourage the removal and disposal of all lead-based paint found in homes.

What To Do if You Suffer Lead Poisoning in the Home

If you or your loved ones get lead poisoning due to lead in your home, you have rights. Contact a seasoned lead poisoning attorney and schedule your free case evaluation.

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