Lead paint removal on bigger units

8 Replies

Hey Guys, I am buying a bigger mixed unit building (15 apartments and 3 retail stores) the building needs a lot of work and evidence of lead paint is shown on the ceilings. Does anyone know the exact law for lead paint removal? Can I overlay? Do I have to remove ALL lead paint in the building? Is an abatement inspection needed? Property is in Massachusetts by the way.

Hey Tony, I'm in the process of becoming a lead paint inspector in MA (currently in my apprenticeship after passing the state test and training) and I can help you with the lead paint laws in MA.  The state actually changed them back in Dec of 2017.  Shockingly for Massachusetts, the new laws are actually less stringent in terms of surfaces that need to be deleaded in a home.  This makes it a lot more cost effective to bring a property into compliance. 

In MA, there are 4 types of lead hazards that need to be abated. 

1) Loose lead paint.  Regardless of the surface...if there's lead paint on the interior/exterior of the unit and it's loose/flaking, it will need to be taken care of.  There are a lot of options depending on the surface.  Let's say it's just on the ceiling of the interior of the units.  You could just cover it with 1/4" drywall effectively covering.  If it's somewhere else...you may have to take a more expensive course of action to treat the hazard.

2) Lead paint on Accessible/Mouthable surfaces.  Basically lead paint on window sills (5ft or lower), handrails, and railing caps.  Those are typically scraped by a deleader. 

3) Lead paint on Moveable/Impact surfaces.  I'm simplifying this, but it's effectively lead paint on wooden windows.  Best course of action is to have a deleader replace the windows with vinyl. 

4) Lead paint on Friction surfaces.  Door edges, door jambs, or stair treads with lead paint on them need to be abated.  Door edges and jambs are typically scraped.  Stair treads are either removed or covered most commonly. 

Any other surfaces that contain lead just need to be intact.  You could have a room with all 4 walls covered in lead paint.  If the walls are in good shape, they don't need to be abated.  It's on the homeowner to maintain the property though. 

To get the property lead-safe certified, you'd need to have a lead inspection done on the property by a MA licensed inspector.  Then have the lead hazards taken care of by a licensed deleader, then have the property re-inspected.  You can do one unit at a time or you can do them all at once.  The retail units don't need to be deleaded unless they're used by tenants (ie. their common laundry was located in the retail unit for some reason...unlikely). 

Sorry that was long winded, but I wanted to get you a good answer before someone from out of state throws in some misinformation.  They don't do it maliciously...it's just that our laws are very different and are some of the toughest in the country. 

Happy to answer any other questions you might have.  Where in MA is the property?  Sounds like a great building.  I'm a buy/hold investor as well and love to learn how folks are finding deals and just talk real estate. 



@Robert Loiselle I have a question for you - I just had my home inspected and I was told I had lead paint on some old baseboards.  The inspector told me that there is a product used for this that is a peel and stick faux wood panel.  My question is whether or not this is something that I could do myself even though I am not a licensed de-leading contractor.  If it's just a matter of encapsulating what is there, and all the contractor is going to do is peel and stick a product on top of it, I would definitely prefer to do that myself and pick my own version of the wood product.  

You might say I'm not a licensed de-leader so that would mean I shouldn't be able to do it, but I also had some lead paint around some windows in my basement and the inspector said I could just put some plywood over the window and that would be considered safe.  By that logic, I would think I could do the baseboards as well.  What do you think?

@Steven Burke Sorry for the delay...crazy few days.  Did you have a lead paint inspection or a regular home inspection?  You would only need to take care of the baseboards if they do in fact have lead paint and are loose/flaking. 

I typically recommend using deleading contractors because it's simpler and there's typically work that only they can do.  There is different levels of work and the homeowner can do certain things.  There is low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk deleading work.  Below are some examples. 

Low risk involves things like replacing doors, drawers, or even covering leaded surfaces (ie. putting new sheetrock over existing lead painted walls).  It also includes using encapsulants. 

Moderate risk involves things like removing a door in a piece by piece manner. 

High risk involves things like replacing windows and scraping activities and have to be done by a licensed deleading contractor. 

You have to watch some training materials from the state to become approved to do low-risk work.  For moderate-risk work, there's an 8-hour class for owners and a test you have to pass.  For encapsulants, there's an add-on training you need to take. 

That's a long answer to give you an idea of the possibilities, but it's typically easier just to have a deleader do the work.  My guess is that you had a regular home inspection and not a comprehensive lead paint inspection.  If it is in fact just the baseboard that needs to be taken care of, then maybe it might be worth it to do it yourself after taking the training...but at the same time, you get a $1500 tax credit from the state for each unit you get lead safe compliance on...which would typically be enough to cover most of that work and the inspections. 

Shoot me more info on your situation and I can help with a recommendation. 

@Robert Loiselle that is all very helpful, thank you.  I think that answers all my questions.  I had a lead inspection done and there were a few spots the inspector noted, but overall my home has very little lead risk.  There were a few of the old baseboards and some spots in the basement, but that was basically it.  I guess I wanted to know if I could do the low-risk work myself without taking any classes, or if a licensed de-leading contractor would have to rip it off when they came to do the other stuff since I'm not licensed.  That tax credit is definitely helpful, I'll be sure to take advantage of that!  Thanks for the feedback

@Steven Burke Feel free to send me your inspection report and I could take a look for you if you want. It should call out directly what needs to be taken care of. I can help with remedies if you like...help to determine the best or most cost effective

@Robert Loiselle - sounds good!  I will reach out when I receive it!  I had it done a couple weeks ago, and because there was a legacy report done in 1990 done by a now disqualified inspector they have to make my report and amendment to the original, which means they have to process it through the state to find the original report.  Who knows how long it's going to take.  But, I'll let you know when it shows up!