Lead Paint?

5 Replies

What is the best stragety for handling a potential lead paint situation? I am just starting out and am looking at properties. Most of the houses I look at were built in the 1950s/60s. And with these houses, I have no clue if there was lead paint in there to begin with or if anything was done about it. Most of the time I would think its been painted over a few times since 1978. Is there a reasonble plan of action beyond having a tennant sign the form that says there "might" be lead paint in the house? I am in NC by the way.


Dan, this is long but there's a lot of confusion out there about lead paint removal. I've gone through the process with HUD, state, and local governments, attorneys, lead inspectors, contractors, and tenants.

Federal law requires that you issue a disclosure statement to every tenant that lets them know if you know of any lead paint. If you don't know, then you check the box that says "I don't know."

In areas where most of the homes are older, it's taken as a given that there's lead paint and most landlords decide not to test b/c they fear that if they know there's lead paint they have to remediate. That's not exactly true.

-Regardless of whether you "know" or not, you as the property owner are still liable for any lead paint damage. So, even if you don't do an inspection, you're still liable which means you can be sued for damages, contrary to popular belief in the landlord community.

-But, if you do an inspection, then every one of those disclosure statements must be checked "Yes there is lead paint here" and that will drop your market rent rates. Judges will also then give you no slack in a suit b/c it's clear you knew there was a danger to your tenants. The actual application of law, though, stays the same--you're still just as liable as before.

-If there is a child under the age of 6, then state law (I forget whether this is federal too) will hold you Strictly Liable.. This means that you can be sued without limit. it's their fun way of encouraging you to remediate if children are in the house, since they're most likely to eat paint chips and suffer the consequences. Again, whether you know of the presence of lead paint or not, and whether you clean it up or not, you are still held strictly liable if there are kids in the house.

Then why do lead paint testing or removal at all?

Because, if a tenant (or their kids) eats paint chips, gets sick, and sues you in court, you'll have a Lead free certification to show the judge. This is no guarantee of freedom, but it's the best evidence you can provide a judge that you have tried everything within your power to protect your tenants and, the precedent in case law says, you will get off. Not a guarantee mind you.

So what should I do?

If all the homes in that area are old, they all probably have lead paint. If the numbers cash flow, it can still be a good deal. Check with your city's lead paint, community development, or housing office to see if they have any HUD grant money for lead paint remediation. I'm in the middle of a $25,000 grant right now for free remediation. Otherwise, be prepared if you accept tenants with kids to foot the bill. A two-family house with moderate levels of paint costs about $40,000 to remediate--it's expensive.

Ultimately, it's a craps game. Decide how much risk you want to assume and price it against the cash available and profit potential on the property. Most landlords keep their heads in the sand and hope nothing goes wrong.

Regarding remediation - can one just remove all the drywall and molding and throw in a dumpster, or is this some sort of hazardous waste?

How you mange lead paint for rentals depends on state law. You have RRP regulations on a federal level. Read both to get a good understanding of the laws.

The issue is that of disturbance...  but once you're done making it airborne, then you can put it in a dumpster.   I know,  not much help.  

This, from the EPA itself:   

Residential lead-based paint - In order to reduce lead poisoning and promote efforts to reduce lead in and around homes, EPA has determined that contractors can manage residential lead-based paint as a household waste.

In other words, We'll go easy on you, because we want you to remove it...  but what you NEED to do to remove it will depend largely on your jurisdictions' guidelines.  


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