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Landlord didn't disclose

Posted by Rona Fischman December 3, 2008 03:07 PM

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Dan asked me:

Hi Rona,

... I had a quick question regarding lead paint. I have 3 children under 6 years old and I am renting a home. I just found out the home was built before 1978 and the only mention of lead paint by the landlord was a paragraph in the lease that they have no knowledge of lead paint on the property. I did not think much of it at the time because most of the homes on the street were built in the 1980's and I (foolishly) assumed the home we were renting was as well.

We never received the state-mandated lead paint form from the landlord. I would like to terminate my lease and move into a newer rental home so I do not have to worry about my childrens' health and safety. Can I legally terminate my lease early because the landlord failed to disclose this information and ensure the house is deleaded?

I don’t know what your rights are in regard to your lease. That’s a lawyer question. Anyone know? Lawyers? Public health professionals?

If your rental was built before 1978, your landlord is obligated to test according to CLPPP (Childhood Lead Paint Prevention Program.) You can call them directly at 1 800 532-9571.

The law requires a seller or landlord and his/her agent to disclose whether the property has been tested and the results of tests done. Most disclosures say “seller has no knowledge of lead-based paint...” Disclosures like that are useless to buyers and renters who are concerned about lead-based paint hazards.

The law affects all property built before 1978. From1978 on, properties are required to be lead-free. Lead paint—although it was not sold after 1978 -- was still on people’s shelves. It is possible for someone to “just use it up” in a new construction. But that risk is low.

Older homes have layers and layers of paint, some of which can have lead in it. If your apartment has new windows, new walls and looked new enough for you to think it was post-1978, it could be low-lead or lead free. So, don’t jump out of your rental so fast. You may be going from the frying pan into the fire.

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

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