Buyers, Sellers, and Real Estate Agents Need to Know The Lead Law
Was the home you are going to be selling built before 1978? If so, chances are there is at least some lead paint present in the house. The older the home, the more lead you can expect to find.
Selling a home with lead paint can present some challenges you should be aware of. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to overcome if you are well-informed about your legal obligations.
If you are buying or selling a home where lead paint exists, you should know the law surrounding it. There are lots of nuances to buying or selling a house where lead paint lives.
It is the only federally mandated disclosure when selling a house. Other types of disclosure issues are governed on a state by state basis.
All real estate agents must comply with the lead paint law.
Why Lead Paint is an Issue
Lead paint was used in most homes built before 1978. Although the lead content in the paint was reduced as the years moved closer to the 1978 cut-off, there is still enough lead present to be a problem for the health of anything that ingests it or inhales it.
Lead is a highly toxic substance that will affect nearly every organ in the body.
Children six years and younger are those at the most risk because they are more likely to consume the paint in their explorations. But lead can also vaporize and be inhaled when windows painted in lead-based paint are opened and closed.
Lead in the paint can leach into the non-lead-based paint as well, so painting over lead-based paint with modern paint is not enough to completely eliminate the risk.
If children ingest a new, top layer of paint, they can still be affected by lead.
Younger children with their affinity for chewing have been known to eat trim around window sills and doorways. Doing so, of course, is a significant health threat causing lead poisoning. The reference gives an extensive list of symptoms of lead poisoning.
In 1992, legislators determined that the presence of lead-based paint in homes should be disclosed before sale. They passed the Lead Law, the law that dictates how homes with lead paint should be dealt with for all the main parties of concern—sellers, buyers, rental owners, renters, real estate agents, etc.
In Massachusetts, the notification program started in 1988. Another name for the lead transfer form is the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Selling a Home with Lead Paint—What You Need to Know
1. You have to disclose any information you know about lead paint in the home.
The critical thing you need to remember is that you must tell buyers if you know of any lead-based paint in the home or any hazards presented by lead-based paint. Quite often sellers or landlords do not know if the house has lead paint or not.
In cases where the seller is not sure there is lead paint they will sign off saying they do not know lead paint is present (if that is the case.)
Of course, if the seller knows there is lead paint in the property they must disclose this fact. There are a few things that the seller could possibly provide including:
- A lead inspection report that details where lead exists in the house.
- A risk assessment report.
- A letter of interim control.
- A letter of compliance for the lead paint law. The document of compliance will show your house as lead-free.
2. You do not have to test for lead-based paint.
While you most certainly have to disclose your knowledge of lead-based paint in the home, you do not have to test for the presence of lead-based paint.
If you haven’t done a test and no one told you there was lead in the paint of your home, you are not forced to test.
A certified lead-free home, however, is easier to sell. By having a lead free home, you are alleviating the fear of buyers with children that the property could be a health risk.
3. You have to give the buyer ten days to order a test for lead-based paint.
You do not have to have your home tested for lead-based paint, but you do have to give any potential buyers a ten-day period to conduct their own test.
If the sale of your property falls under tight time frame, it is possible to negotiate a shorter testing window than ten days.
4. Give buyers a Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification.
Both federal law and Massachusetts law require that sellers give all prospective buyers a Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification before the buyer signs a purchase and sale agreement.
The notification explains the main points all parties need to be aware of concerning the Lead Law. Everyone involved in the transaction needs to sign the agreement, which including the buyer, seller and both the seller’s agent and buyer’s real estate agent.
The lead paint form that is used in the transaction should be the one filled out by the seller. The listing agent should be giving this form to the buyer either before or at the time the offer to purchase is written.
A buyer’s agent should NEVER fill out their own lead paint form and give it to the buyer. By doing this a real estate agent is not in compliance with the lead paint law!
Of course, your Realtor should be well aware of these requirements and hopefully has explained most of this to you before listing your home.
5. You need to give buyers the pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in the Home.
The Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification is not the only form you need to be aware of as a seller. You are also required to give potential buyers a pamphlet explaining what the presence of lead in the home means, who is at risk and what the new owners can do to minimize the potential harm the lead paint could cause.
The pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in the Home, is available at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. The package is for both the state and federal lead notification requirements.Following the lead paint law is critical as a real estate agent - make sure you do!Click To Tweet
6. Make sure you meet these requirements.
Homeowners and real estate agents who do not follow these requirements can face a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars under state law, a civil penalty up to ten thousand, possible criminal sanctions under federal law, as well as liability for any damages incurred.
The lead paint law is something to take very seriously as a buyer, seller, and real estate agents. There have been lawsuits where damages were in the hundreds of thousands.
How to Make Selling a Home with Lead Paint Easier
If you are worried about the difficulties that may come up when trying to sell your home with lead paint, you are not alone. You only have to read a little about the risks of lead paint, particularly to children, to feel concerned.
You don’t want anyone to come to harm due to buying your home. It is normal to worry about not only the risks the lead paint may pose new buyers but also worry about how potential buyers will see your home.
Will they avoid it at all costs? Will you struggle to sell your home for a reasonable price, or to sell your home at all?
While it is understandable to feel some concern, try not to get too worried. There are plenty of reasons why buyers will be interested.
You can definitely sell your home, and you can probably get a reasonable price for it. Here are some reasons why:
Most homes built before 1978 contain lead paint.
This is probably the most crucial point to remember. If people didn’t buy homes with lead paint in them, no one with an older home would be able to sell it.
While the exact number of older homes sold each year would take more research than is necessary for this article, you can guarantee that a lot of older homes are sold, year after year.
In fact, some buyers specifically seek to purchase an older home for its charm and character. Any house built in the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s up to 1978 has lead paint.
Just take a minute to add up the number of homes that have been built before 1978, and you’ll realize it’s significant.
Some buyers want an older home.
Not everyone is interested in a new home. Plenty of buyers find new homes boring and lacking in character. Older homes tend to be of great interest to these kinds of buyers. When someone is looking for an antique home, they know to expect lead paint.
While lead paint can be an issue, there are usually more pressing concerns when buying an older house. As a seller, you should never treat known issues with your house lightly.
Do what you can and fix any glaring deficiences. Getting ready for the buyer’s inspection before it takes place is always sound advice.
Not every buyer has young children or plans to have children.
By far the most significant risk posed by lead-based paint in a home is too young children. There are many, many buyers out there that do not have young children or plan to have children any time soon.
Older buyers, buyers with older children and buyers who do not expect to have children are all likely to accept a house with lead-based paint without missing a step.
A skilled real estate agent knows how to sell homes with lead-based paint.
Any reputable real estate is probably going to have experience selling homes with lead-based paint. A good agent will be able to explain the many benefits of purchasing your home to buyers—benefits that far outweigh the inconvenience of having old paint in the house.
Lead-based paint can be removed by professionals.
If the presence of lead-based paint is a problem for buyers, they always have the option of having the paint professionally removed. While there is an obvious expense involved, it is the kind of cost that many buyers will be happy to cover.
If they want the home, they can have the paint removed, and new paint added.
Some sellers ask if they remove the lead paint will it make their property more valuable. The answer is yes, having a deleaded house most definitely will change the value. A lead-free home more than likely means you have replaced old windows and doors.
Obviously, you would have more energy efficient windows and doors which many energy-conscious buyers love.
Adhering to the Lead Law is not difficult.
The Lead Law is quite easy to follow for sellers. You don’t even have to get your home tested for lead paint. You just have to let buyers know what information if any about the paint in your home, hand them a few pamphlets and sign a document together.
As far as the challenges of selling a home go, dealing with lead-based paint are relatively simple.
Buying a Home with Lead Paint—What You Need to Know
Are you buying a house with lead paint? Buyers have a different responsibility than sellers when it comes to lead paint removal.
If you are purchasing real estate with a child under the age of six where lead paint exists, it must be removed.
Buyers must either have the property deleaded or brought under interim control within 90 days of purchase if a child under six is living in the home.
1. Buyers are not required to test for lead paint.
When purchasing home buyers are not required to test for lead paint even if they have a child under the age of six living there.
Over the thirty plus years I have been selling real estate, there have been times where buyers would be faced with the dilemma of testing or not.
On the one hand, buyers will want to know if their home is safe. On the other hand, especially if they have a tight budget, there will be trepidation finding out if their dream house has lead paint.
Removing lead paint from a home is not cheap and could cause a buyer not to move forward. In my experience more times than not buyers pass on having a lead paint test done.
2. If a home has lead paint what do you do?
Once you take possession of the home via transfer of title and there is a child under six present you must get rid of the lead paint or follow interim control protocols.
3. What is interim control and how does it work?
Interim control is a temporary fix for lead paint hazards in a home. It is different than a complete deleading because it only deals with the very worst lead paint issues. These lead hazards are considered the following:
- Loose, chipping or peeling paint
- Windows that have lead paint that are shedding dust or chips
- Dust in the house containing a high lead levels
- Window wells that are not smooth or easy to clean
- Structural defects in the house like roof or plumbing leaks that are making lead paint peel
To be approved for interim control the following conditions must be met:
- You must hire a licensed risk assessor. The risk assessor will identify lead hazards and will show you what work must be completed.
- After the work is done, the risk assessor must come back to the house to take dust samples and visually inspect the work has been done correctly.
- If a house meets interim control standards, the risk assessor will issue a Letter of Interim Control, which is good for one year.
An owner can have the home reinspected before the end of the year. If the house still meets all the conditions of Interim Control, the Letter of Interim Control may be renewed for one additional year. By the end of two years, the house must comply with the lead paint law.
4. Who can do interim control work?
Under interim control, licensed deleaders must do some work and repairs. Homeowners and their agents may do some low and moderate risk work if they have gone through specialized training.
Contact the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) for more information on what repairs a homeowner can and cannot do.
Here is an excellent resource for finding companies that do certified inspections, risk assessment and abatement of lead paint. You can put the state in which you are located to find these lead experts.
5. Can I encapsulate the lead paint in my house?
The answer is yes. Encapsulating is a legal method of dealing with lead paint. Encapsulation is the process of providing a special liquid coating that is a long-lasting, effective barrier over lead paint. Regular paint is not an encapsulate.
Encapsulation can only be used on surfaces that are in good condition. Encapsulation will not work on surfaces that are badly deteriorated, are walked on, or are subject to friction.
You don’t need to be a licensed lead remover to do encapsulation work. You do, however, need to review a brief training booklet and take an at-home test.
You are required to bring the at-home test to the Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP). You will receive an authorization number to apply the encapsulants.
Here is a recommend lead encapsulation product.
6. Do I have to be out of the house when the deleading work is done?
Unfortunately, you must be out of the house the entire time that a deleading specialist is removing lead paint.
You may stay at home but out of the work area, while a deleader or property owner without a deleaders license does some deleading tasks, or such interim control work as structural repairs or lead dust cleaning.
You cannot return to the home until the lead removal work is complete, the home is cleaned, and the risk assessor has found the work to be done satisfactorily.
7. Is there any financial assistance for deleading a house?
There is a state income tax credit of up to $1500 per unit for full deleading. A credit of up to $500 per unit is also available to go towards interim control work that contributes to complete lead removal.
8. Buying a Multi-Family Investment Property
When you are purchasing a multi-family that you discover has lead paint it can be problematic. Let me give you a scenario to think about. You decide to buy an older multifamily property that you plan to live in. You conduct a lead paint test and find out there is lead paint.
There is currently a tenant in the other unit that has a lease with a child residing under the age of six. It is now your responsibility to remove the lead paint from the unit in which the tenant resides.
Not only are you responsible for removing the lead but also finding alternative housing for the tenant and paying for it. Yes, you are reading this correctly. The landlord is responsible for paying the tenants reasonable moving expenses and temporary housing costs over and above the rent of the house being deleaded.
During the time the lead is being removed from the home the tenant is still responsible for paying the rent.
The costs are significant in situations such as these. If you’re buying a home under this scenario, it would probably make sense to negotiate some of the costs with the current seller. Not long ago, I was involved in this exact situation with a home in Hopedale Massachusetts. Understanding the nuances of the lead law come in handy.
Other Helpful Articles on Potential Hazards in a Home
- What to know about buying and selling a house with mold. Mold is common in homes and easily remedied.
- What to know about buying and selling a home with radon. Radon levels in the air above 4 pCi/L are considered worth remediating.
- What to know about buying and selling a home with radon in the water. Radon in the water is more expensive to deal with than in the air.
- What to know about buying and selling a house with asbestos. Asbestos is a hazardous substance that needs to be safely contained.
When buying or selling a house where lead paint exists, you should be intimately familiar with the lead paint laws. Whether you are located in Massachusetts or some other state, lead paint is something to take seriously.
Additional Articles on Buying and Selling Worth Reading
- Prepare your home for severe storms via Jamohl DeWald.
- Inspection tips when purchasing a home via Luke Skar.
- Real Estate myths to ignore via Karen Highland.
- Always hire licensed contractors when selling a house via Conor MacEvilly.
- What to think about when the buyer backs out via Lynn Pineda.
Use these additional helpful resources to make great decisions when buying or selling a house!
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on buying and selling a house with lead paint was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 31+ Years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.