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Don't ask, don't tell

Posted by Rona Fischman May 28, 2008 05:33 PM

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Not to get too political, but I do not think that “Don’t ask; don’t tell” is a good policy. It does not work in the military; it does not work in home buying.

The place where home buyers get hit with “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is in regard to lead paint. Lead paint was used in housing for a long time. Why? Because it lasts longer; it was the good stuff! It stopped being made in 1978 for housing. However, some of the paint was still around for years to come. Lead paint shows up on the exterior, the windows and on painted stairs and floors. Most disclosures presented to buyers at the point of Offer say the seller does not know if there is lead paint because the house was never tested. “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” The nicer the old house, the more likely there will be lead paint someplace.

There is a lead paint law in our Commonwealth. That law is the model for laws all over the country. However, this law does not require that a homeowner test their home for lead paint, only to disclose test results and certificates, if they have them.

Buyers have the right to test a home for lead paint during the ten-day period after an offer is accepted. However, this testing is expensive (some hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of the property.) Then, if you choose to de-lead, you have an expensive job ahead of you. Lead remediation involves removal of all surfaces that rub to make lead dust. Also removal or covering of lead paint on surfaces a child can get his/her mouth around up to five feet high. Repair of chipped paint above five feet. This is done as a hazardous waste removal project, with all lead paint areas covered in two layers of plastic sheeting to keep the dust from getting into the air. It takes a long time; it costs.

No one must check a home for lead paint. No one will be forced to make a home lead-safe until a complaint is filed.

So, do you delead your home? Buy a deleaded home? Take your chances? Parents and homeowners, what did you do?

(Landlords, wait your turn. I will get to that another day!)

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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