American Homeowners Association Membership  
American Homeowners Association



Sellers Must Disclose Lead-Paint Risks

Home is where we expect to find a safe haven, but there is a major health threat lurking in homes built before the 1980s that jeopardizes unsuspecting families across the U.S. The danger is lead poisoning, possibly the worst environmental health problem affecting children today, health specialists say. It's so bad that Federal officials are targeting property owners who fail to warn tenants about health risks from lead in paint, as required by federal law. But it's not just landlords who need to take action, or just children who are endangered; it's everyone, including homeowners, home sellers and homebuyers who must know the dangers of lead and what to do about it.

Lead is a highly toxic substance that was banned for use in paint in 1978. Nationally, about 890,000 children under 6 have excessive lead levels in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Threats to children include irreversible brain damage, impaired mental functioning, retarded mental and physical development, and reduced attention span. Lead poisoning can also retard fetal development even at extremely low levels. In women and men, it can cause nerve damage and reproductive problems. It may also increase blood pressure.

Young children can get lead poisoning by eating paint chips. Anyone can get it from ingesting or inhaling lead dust created when paint is deteriorating, or when it is removed or disturbed. The problem is primarily in homes built before the ban took effect. Latex water-based paints generally have not contained lead. But heavily-leaded paint is found in about two-thirds of the homes built before 1940, one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960, and some homes built after 1960, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It may be on any interior or exterior surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows.

The federal enforcement crackdown is against landlords who did not warn their tenants about lead in paint, as required by the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. Legal action has been taken against 50 landlords in 20 cities since last August, primarily in urban multi-family housing, leading to hundreds of thousands in fines and millions in clean-up actions. But the law goes beyond landlords. Every home seller must warn the homebuyer about lead-based paint hazards.

Sellers and landlords of homes built prior to 1978 must do the following for homebuyers or tenants:

    1 - Provide an EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards in the home

    2 - Disclose any known information concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, including information such as the location of the lead-based paint, and the condition of the painted surfaces

    3 - Provide any records and reports on lead-based paint that are available to the seller or landlord

    4 - Include an attachment to the contract or lease (or language inserted in the lease itself) which provides a Lead Warning Statement and confirms that the seller or landlord has complied with all notification requirements

    5 - Provide homebuyers a 10-day period to conduct a paint inspection or risk assessment for lead-based paint. (Buyer and seller may mutually agree in writing to lengthen or shorten the time period for inspection, or homebuyers may waive this inspection opportunity.)

If you did not receive the Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards form when you bought or leased pre-1978 housing, contact the National Lead Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-424-LEAD.

By Cliff McCreedy

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.