Do Sellers Need to Provide a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure to a Buyer?
For many years, people painted their walls with a highly toxic material that caused nausea, learning disabilities, organ damage, and sometimes even death. Lead-based paint was used in about 75% of houses built before 1978. The U.S. government estimates that about 64 million homes currently have lead paint.
But even if your home was built before 1978, you may not have to worry: When properly managed and maintained, lead paint poses only a little risk. However, if your paint is chipping, peeling, and creating lead dust, you risk inhaling it and damaging your body.
It is especially important to be aware of lead-based paint hazards if you are living in a home with small children or animals who could accidentally eat or chew on the paint debris. What’s worse is that you could have lead poisoning without even showing symptoms.
To protect families from harm, Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (aka Title X). This act requires home sellers and landlords to provide a lead paint disclosure regarding any lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards that homebuyers and renters might encounter.
In this post, we’ll explore the requirements of a Lead Paint Disclosure and what types of homes are required to disclose this information, as well as the harmful effects of lead-based paint, how to maintain your home if you have it, and options for getting rid of it.
What Are the Lead Paint Disclosure Requirements?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), here’s what sellers typically need to include in their lead-based paint disclosures:
- Where lead-based paint was used in a home and the current condition of those painted surfaces
- Any known information, such as records and reports, you received about lead-based paint when you purchased the home. If you’re the rental property owner of a multi-unit building, federal law states that you must also include any records and reports regarding common areas.
- A Lead Warning Statement, which you must add to the contract between you and the buyer. This statement confirms that you’ve gathered all of the necessary notification requirements regarding lead-based paint in your disclosure of information.
As a seller, you must also give your homebuyer an EPA-approved information pamphlet titled: “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home.” This pamphlet walks the buyer through identifying lead-based paint hazards and what they need to do to stay safe.
Finally, sellers must grant homebuyers a 10-day window to conduct a risk assessment or paint inspection to evaluate lead levels in the home and any potential lead-based paint hazards. You and the buyer can agree on whether to compress or expand this timeline, depending on your needs. Homebuyers can even waive a lead inspection, but we don’t recommend it, especially if you have children or pets.
What Happens If You Don’t Disclose Known Lead-Based Paint Hazards?
If you know about the presence of lead-based paint in your home and fail to include it in your lead paint disclosure, then lead exposure isn’t the only thing you’ll have to worry about. This type of negligence opens you up to liability. If the homebuyer or one of their family members gets sick in the home you sold, you more than likely will be sued for legal damages and be required to pay a minimum federal penalty of $10k or more.
Including all lead hazard information in your seller’s disclosure is much cheaper.
Which Types of Homes Require a Lead Paint Disclosure Form?
Almost all residential dwellings built after 1978 will require you to include a lead-based paint disclosure form, including the following:
- Public housing
- Private housing
- Federally owned housing
- Homes paid for with federal assistance
However, there are a few exceptions, which include the following:
- Studio apartments and comparable dwelling units
- Homes leased for 100 days or fewer
- Homes designated specifically for seniors
- Rental units that are found to be free of lead-based paint by a certified lead inspector
What Are the Harmful Effects of Lead-Based Paint?
Back in the day, paint manufacturers included lead in their products because it made paint more durable and moisture-resistant. Lead also helped the paint dry faster, which allowed contractors to optimize their process. Unfortunately, they weren’t aware of the many health hazards associated with lead-based paint.
No matter if you’re a young child, a pregnant woman, or a healthy adult, everyone is susceptible to the dangers of lead poisoning. Here are the most common symptoms in adults:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling fatigued
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Problems remembering things
In young children, problems caused by lead exposure can be even worse, like:
- Developmental disabilities
- Damage to internal organs
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Hearing and speech impairments
- Behavioral issues
- Learning disabilities and issues
While not common, it is possible for high levels of lead exposure to result in death.
How Should You Maintain Your Home If You Have Lead-Based Paint?
People have been living in homes with lead-based paint for decades, and you can, too. Whether you’re a seller who’s living in a house with lead paint or you’re a buyer who’s received a lead paint disclosure and is still interested in purchasing the home, here’s how to protect yourself:
- Make it a habit to remove your shoes before entering your home.
- Regularly wipe down flat surfaces, such as window sills, with a damp paper towel that you dispose of afterward.
- Mop your floors on a weekly basis.
- Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter, and vacuum often.
- Keep an eye out for loose paint chips. Pick them up with a paper towel and throw them in the garbage. Then wipe the area where you found them with a damp paper towel.
- Exercise caution during any remodeling or renovation projects since they often involve a lot of dust.
- Hire a professional inspector to test your home for lead hazards.
If you have kids, make sure they wash their hands often. You should also be regularly washing their toys. If they’re 6 years old or younger, have their blood lead level tested, just in case. Make sure to consult with a professional service or medical professional for further information, as these are just suggestions.
How Do You Get Rid of Lead Paint?
The good news is you can get rid of lead paint. Experts estimate that lead paint removal will cost you anywhere between $8–$15 per square foot. If your home is 2,000 square feet, that’s anywhere from $16,000–$30,000. (Though this assumes that there’s lead paint on every wall, which isn’t always the case.)
The professional will remove lead paint by wet scraping or wet sanding. Both of these strategies will prevent the lead from turning into dust, which often poses a greater risk than the lead paint itself.
An alternative to getting rid of it is to completely paint over all surfaces that contain lead-based paint. Some contractors will use special watertight paint to seal off the lead paint in the layer or layers below, further helping to reduce your chances of exposure. However, like all paint, this can eventually wear off, exposing you to the lead-based paint underneath.
Since every home is a little different and contains varying levels of lead, we recommend consulting with a professional contractor when exploring your options.
How Can Aalto Help?
The homebuying process has so many moving parts that it’s hard to stay on top of everything. It’s easy to forget something like a lead paint disclosure while you’re looking at different homes, compiling your down payment, and navigating the lengthy purchase of sale agreements.
That’s where Aalto comes in.
We're a self-service real estate platform that’s dedicated to shifting the balance of power in residential real estate away from industry insiders and toward consumers. Whether you’re looking to sell your home or buy one on our marketplace, we’re here to help you on every step of your real estate journey — which includes staying on top of disclosure forms on your behalf.
Are you ready to get started? Sign up with Aalto today!
Aalto is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, License #02062727 and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. This article has been prepared solely for information purposes only. The information herein is based on information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy of the information. Aalto disclaims any and all liability relating to this article.