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Tenant Lead Paint Law: Rental Property Lead Disclosures FAQ

X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer looking for lead paint in old home

There are limits to how thoroughly a prospective tenant can check out a potential new rental unit. Most rental property tours don't scratch the surface of what the eye can see.

Potential tenants can't check the dwelling unit's insulation for asbestos or the paint for the presence of lead. Fortunately, tenants and renters do not have to rely solely upon the landlord or property owner for accurate disclosure.

Federal, state, and local laws require landlords and property managers to disclose defects potentially hazardous to human life and safety. One of the more well-known disclosures is the federal lead paint disclosure.

This article explores frequently asked questions about lead paint disclosures in residential rental properties.

Why Do We Need a Lead-Paint Disclosure Rule?

Lead paint is hazardous to human health and safety. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 64 million homes have some lead-based paint exposure. About 1.7 million children have high levels of lead in their blood.

Lead poisoning can lead to significant health problems, including the following:

  • Brain damage
  • Other organ damage
  • Reduced intelligence
  • Abnormal fetal development

These disclosures are vital for new tenants unaware of the building's history.

What Is the Federal Disclosure Rule for Lead Paint?

Federal law governs lead-paint disclosures. In 1992, Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Hazard Reduction Act ("Act") or Title X. This Act aimed to protect everyone from exposure to lead as found in paint, dust, and soil through disclosure in real estate transactions.

The Act applies to buildings constructed before 1978. The EPA and HUD are the two federal agencies that manage and enforce the Act.

Under this Act, landlords and property management must do the following:

  • Disclose any known information about the existence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, including the location of such paint or hazards
  • Give the tenant a copy of an EPA-approved pamphlet on how to assess and manage lead-based paint hazards
  • Confirmation that the property manager complied with notification requirements. The property manager can give you access to records or include language in the lease or rental agreement.

How Do Landlords Fulfill Disclosure Requirements?

There are several ways landlords can fulfill disclosure requirements. One is through the lease agreement. Landlords can include disclosure language for a prospective tenant to confirm in the lease agreement. In some states, like Maine, landlords use a disclosure form prepared by a local agency to make disclosure.

Does the Act Cover All Types of Rental Properties?

The Act does not cover all types of rental properties. Several types of rental properties didn't make it into the Act. These include the following:

  • Lofts, efficiencies, studio apartments, and other residential leased properties that contain zero bedrooms
  • Hosing constructed after 1978
  • Single rooms rented in a larger residential building
  • Short-term rentals of 100 days or less
  • Any housing certified as lead-free by a certified lead inspector
  • Any housing designed for elderly persons (at least one tenant is 62 years of age or older)
  • Housing for people with disabilities

Do Disclosure Requirements Apply to Renovations?

Yes, they do. To protect the tenants of any rental properties, a landlord must provide notice whenever they are renovating. This is true for an occupied rental unit or common area in a rental property building constructed before 1978.

Under EPA regulations, the landlord must provide at least 60 days' notice to affected tenants. This includes the tenants occupying the rental property and all tenants for common area renovations. This rule applies to renovation projects that are likely to disturb painted surfaces.

If the landlord wants to renovate an occupied rental unit, they must provide the tenant with a copy of the EPA pamphlet mentioned above. If the landlord is renovating the common area of a rental property, the contractor must distribute a notice to every rental unit that describes the following:

  • The work they are undertaking
  • The location of the work
  • The dates that the work is to begin and end

Other Types of Disclosures

Lead-based paint is not the only hazard landlords must disclose. State laws regulate other landlord disclosures to reduce the public's exposure to health hazards in residential dwellings.

These state disclosure laws include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bed bugs and bed bug infestations (CaliforniaNew York)
  • Whether the property owner has plans to convert the rental property into condominiums
  • Radon
  • Methamphetamine (California)
  • Tenant's right to move-in forms (Arizona)
  • Foreclosure (Minnesota)
  • Notice of the use of pest control services (California)
  • Sex-offender database (California)
  • Security deposit, including written notice of itemized deductions
  • Smoking policy

Please note: different states have different required disclosures for residential property rentals and sales. Real estate agents often help home sellers identify required disclosures during the home sales process.

Get Help From an Attorney

Understanding required disclosures is challenging, given the many sources of them. A real estate attorney is an expert in real property, including landlord-tenant law. Whether you are a new owner or a seasoned property owner, they can give you legal advice and help you draft disclosure statements. Real estate attorneys can also help tenants and renters understand their tenants' rights, including disclosures. Speak to an experienced attorney for specific laws in your state.

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