Lead paint questions (in MA)

9 Replies

I just purchased my first multi-family (in Belmont) and have a couple of questions about lead paint. I've heard that the laws around lead paint in Massachusetts are changing December 1st, and that it could make it easier and less costly to remediate lead hazards. Does anyone have any info on the changing lead laws and what that might do for a landlord/homeowner? Also, I'm looking for opinions on what to do regarding doing a lead inspection or not. The house has never been inspected, but it was built in 1924 so I'm assuming there's lead. I've heard once you inspect, you have opened yourself up to liability if you don't then remediate. But, without inspecting, I have no idea what it might cost to remediate, so it seems like a catch 22! Belmont is appealing to families with children, so ideally I would like to get that deleaded certificate. But having no idea of the final costs, it's scary to open that can of worms. What would you do?

All paint sold until 1978 could have lead in it.  That does not mean the 50,000,000 other buildings in America owner are liable and real cause for blood poisoning.  As a realtor or landlord you disclose the year building was built. In all probability there are several coats of latex painting over and sealed what was there before 1978. Same with popcorn ceiling and asbestos exposure.

@Julie Halloran I have not heard about December 1 changes to the state or federal laws.

As an MFR owner, you have the legal obligation to REMEDIATE (not just disclose) if there is going to be a child 6 years old or younger living in one of your units.

In MA, you cannot refuse to rent to tenants because they have such a child in their household.  That's age discrimination and is a can of worms best not opened.

However, whether you inspect or not, you have liability if lead paint causes injury.  

The amount of ingested lead paint required to cause actual brain damage to a child is surprisingly small - about the size of a quarter.  Worse, it's cumulative over a lifetime.  A bit of exposure here and a bit more there and you have a perfectly healthy child who now has actual brain damage.

Sad to say, but the time for the lead paint disclosures was BEFORE you bought it.  Not after.

At this point, get it inspected.  If there is lead paint, get it remediated and chalk it up to an education.

It's neither easy nor cheap, but it's worth not doing real, lasting damage to someone else's kid.

Echoing and expanding on Charlie's good points--the mass lead law is "strict liability" meaning you are responsible pretty much no matter what actions you take, fail to take etc. practically, there is litttle danger in a well maintained place but...

One of the reasons the lead mitigation etc is so expensive is that the remediators are taking on some of that liability.

Congrats on your purchase Julie! I understand how you feel and the costs associated, but the best thing to do is to resolve the issues especially if you're a buy and hold investor. 

@Julie Halloran

As others have stated, unfortunately in MA knowing or not knowing does not matter.  Your still responsible to remediate it.  We can not discriminate against young children, section 8 and if you accept other government agency funding (RAFT, Homebase, Local housing) an kids are younger than 6....they will ask for the certificate too.

Did you check the state database to see if there is anything on your property?  Its a web free search.

Well said, @Charlie MacPherson

I agree with Charlie on this one. I would recommend getting it remediated. You are right though about the new rules coming down the pipeline. It might be wise to wait and see what the changes are. Also, a lot of people don't know this but you can take a test online, in about 5 minutes and get licensed to do low-level de-leading. Even mid-grade stuff only takes a day of classroom training. Just food for thought. 

In the end, educate yourself on it and you will realize it's not as scary as it sounds and is typically easier to negotiate on the deleading cost if you know what level of lead abatement is needed in your property. 

The real damage from lead typically comes from renovation dust when it's disturbed. If you do renovations make sure yo use a hepa filter vac and approved cleaning techniques and test. The real shame of deleading is you will probably lose a lot of nice trim

Any wholesalers out there looking to network? Any buyers? Thanks

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