Lead Based Paint

On March 6, 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development released new federal lead-based paint regulations that balance the need to protect the health and welfare of small children without undue government burden on families seeking to secure safe and affordable housing. EPA and HUD issued final regulations to implement the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, known as Title X, passed; by Congress in 1992. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has worked closely with these agencies to create the regulations.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can attack the central nervous system when inhaled or ingested and is considered to be one of the major environmental concerns in residences,

commercial buildings and work places. Negative effects of lead-based paint are most detrimental to children, fetuses and women of childbearing age. Although the use of lead-based paint ceased in 1977, according the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), more than three quarters of the homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint.

Real estate professionals historically have kept an eye on environmental issues that affect ownership of private property. Lead-based paint is one such issue. Title X is consistent with NAR’s policy to disclose all material property defects. The rule requires those selling property built before 1978 to disclose the known presence of lead-based paint or lead paint hazards. It also requires sellers to distribute a federal lead hazard information pamphlet, obtained through the National Lead Information Clearinghouse, before any purchase offers can be accepted. (Note: When a property is being purchased with a loan backed by FHA, there is an additional form that must be provided to the buyer). This rule will encourage both the seller and the buyer to explore possible existing environmental hazards on a property before a transaction occurs. And, it could go far toward eliminating lead as a health problem for future generations.

Specifically, the new EPA/HUD rules state that:

  1. Sellers and landlords must disclose known lead-based paint hazards and provide available reports to buyers or tenants.
  2. Sellers and landlords must give buyers and renters the EPA/HUD/Consumer Product Safety Commission pamphlet titled, “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home.”
  3. Home buyers will get a 10-day period to conduct a lead-based paint inspection or risk assessment at their own expense, if desired. The number of days can be changed by mutual consent.
  4. Sales contracts and leasing agreements must include language to ensure that disclosure and notification actually take place.
  5. Sellers, lessors and real estate agents share responsibility for ensuring compliance.

Title X requires no testing, removal or abatement of lead-based paint and does not invalidate leasing and sales contracts. But, if any lead hazards are found, the law does not prevent the two parties from negotiating hazard reduction as a contingency. This will be handled in the same way as any other housing defect.

Effective dates for compliance are: September 6, 1996, for dwellings of more than four units, and December 6, 1996, for dwellings of one to four units. Certain properties are exempt from the rule, including properties that are leased for 100 days or less without the possibility of renewal or extension. Penalties for noncompliance are quite severe and can range up to $10,000 for each violation and imprisonment for up to one year.

Questions about lead-based paint may be directed to the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD (5323). The Center can provide you with the above-mentioned pamphlet as well as sample disclosure forms, copies of the new regulations and much more. Additional information can be found at www.epa.gov.

Date: May 15, 1998