By Wade M. Fisher, Associate
Because state law generally governs transactions involving real property, an unwary home seller or landlord could easily overlook the lead-based paint disclosure requirements contained in the federal Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.
Now known to be toxic, lead was once commonly used in paint as a pigment that created more vibrant colors. Among other benefits, lead also causes paint to dry faster and makes paint more resistant to the effects of weather.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, the effects of lead poisoning can be serious. Adults suffering from lead poisoning can suffer from reproductive problems, nerve disorders, and high blood pressure and hypertension. The effects are more serious for children who can suffer brain damage, slowed growth, and behavior and learning problems. Lead poisoning also poses serious risks to pregnant women.
As a result, Congress enacted the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992. The Act generally requires home sellers and landlords to provide information about the risks of lead-based paint and details about the existence of lead-based paint at the property involved, to the extent known by the seller or landlord. The Act, however, does not impose an obligation to conduct any evaluation or investigation for such hazards.
The disclosure requirements generally apply to housing constructed prior to 1978. To satisfy the requirements, the seller or landlord generally must provide an EPA-approved pamphlet containing information about lead hazards and disclose the presence of any known lead hazards at the property, any information known about those hazards, and the existence of any records or reports pertaining to those hazards.
In addition to these disclosure requirements, the Act and the corresponding regulations contain other provisions that could easily be overlooked, such as the requirement that potential home buyers must have the opportunity to conduct an inspection for lead-based paint before being bound by a contract to purchase property covered by the Act.
Any person who fails to comply with the Act’s requirements can be held liable to the purchaser or tenant in an amount equal to three times the amount of actual damages incurred, and material violations could result in the imposition of a monetary penalty in addition to the payment of damages.
Accordingly, landowners who are about to enter into agreements for the sale or lease of houses built prior to 1978 would be wise to seek legal counsel to ensure their compliance with the requirements of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.
Wade an associate at our firm. His practice areas include estate planning and administration, elder law, and corporate law.
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