Author Topic: Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?  (Read 297 times)

Neo

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Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?
« on: August 10, 2017, 11:11:50 AM »
Landlords, looking for your advice. I'm in Ohio for what it's worth.

We own a 3-family building built in 1897. When we bought it the seller stated on the disclosure that he had no knowledge of lead-based paint. However, it's pretty safe to assume that lead paint does exist in a home of this age. He likely just never had it tested and therefore doesn't have to disclose it. A tenant is now telling me that he babysits his granddaughter and she was taken to the hospital and exhibits elevated lead levels. We don't know if this is from our property, the property she actually lives in, or some other property where she spends time. Needless to say this is very concerning!

We inherited the tenant from the previous owner of the building. I looked at the lease he signed with the previous owner and he initialed that he received the Federal required lead paint disclosures. At this point all the tenant is asking is that we come in and repaint some areas where the paint is peeling due to a water leak (which we fixed upon taking ownership). I don't think that will actually take care of the issue and apparently the EPA has rules about who can even do work in a pre-1978 building. From the EPA's website for property managers:

Do you or your employees conduct renovation, repair, or painting activities in a pre-1978 residential building?
◦If yes, then you must become a Lead-Safe Certified Firm.
◦If no, then hire only a Lead-Safe Certified firm for building maintenance, repair, or painting activities that could disturb lead-based paint. Find a Lead-Safe Certified Firm.

All my buildings are older than 1978. This language makes it seem like I have to use a Lead Safe Certified Firm every time I want to repaint a unit when a tenant moves out. That seems insane! The fines for working with lead paint when you're not certified are up to $37,000 per occurrence!

So two issues really:
1. Specific to my tenant with the allegedly sick granddaughter, should I have the property tested for lead paint? If I do I will have to disclose it forever to each tenant and buyer. Should I just repaint? Should I use the encapsulation paint from Home Depot and DIY? Really not sure how to handle this.
2. The way the EPA language reads, it seems like all painting activities in pre-1978 buildings must be done by lead safe certified firms. Is anyone actually abiding by that? It seems crazy and cost prohibitive to even owning rental properties.

Thanks for the opinions! I will, of course, be doing my own research too. Perhaps consulting with our attorney as well.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 11:19:22 AM by Neo »

LucyWreck

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Re: Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2017, 07:36:34 AM »
For starters, why not just go ahead and DIY-fix the area the tenant is concerned about? As long as you yourself are not a child or pregnant, you should be able to scrape/sand (with a mask) and thoroughly clean the area, then re-paint relatively safely. (Disclaimer: not a health professional or lawyer here -- just another owner of an 1890s home with a rental unit.)

Where I live, you as a landlord are REQUIRED to test for lead (conducted by the health department) if a child who lives at the property tests above certain levels. Rules may vary in your area, and the fact that the child doesn't live there may also be a factor. Definitely check with your lawyer.

But I'd err on the side of caution and compassion -- lead poisoning in young kids is no joke, and it sounds like grandma is doing the right thing by talking to you about it. That means dropping the "allegedly sick" language and figuring out how to do right, whatever that means, and even if it costs some $$.

Papa bear

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Re: Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2017, 07:43:06 AM »
Just go in and paint it yourself. 

I give lead paint disclosures for all of my rentals, but most everything has been torn out and redone at this point.  But if paint is peeling, just go in, scrape it off and repaint. Make sure you clean up well afterwards.

And it's very likely that you have elevated lead levels around your yard.  In an interesting NPR segment I heard, basically every house that had lead paint will have elevated lead levels in the soil surrounding the yard.  I know my toddler son likes to put things in his mouth, suggest that the tenant not eat any dirt, clean hands after playing outside, and vacuum more regularly, if they are concerned.


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Neo

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Re: Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2017, 11:48:32 AM »
For starters, why not just go ahead and DIY-fix the area the tenant is concerned about? As long as you yourself are not a child or pregnant, you should be able to scrape/sand (with a mask) and thoroughly clean the area, then re-paint relatively safely. (Disclaimer: not a health professional or lawyer here -- just another owner of an 1890s home with a rental unit.)

Where I live, you as a landlord are REQUIRED to test for lead (conducted by the health department) if a child who lives at the property tests above certain levels. Rules may vary in your area, and the fact that the child doesn't live there may also be a factor. Definitely check with your lawyer.

But I'd err on the side of caution and compassion -- lead poisoning in young kids is no joke, and it sounds like grandma is doing the right thing by talking to you about it. That means dropping the "allegedly sick" language and figuring out how to do right, whatever that means, and even if it costs some $$.

I think you're misunderstanding me. I absolutely want to do what's best and safest for the tenants and their kids. Of course I am concerned about costs but that doesn't mean I would ever cut corners where safety is involved. You advocated sanding and repainting myself. I would LOVE for that to be the outcome, but according to the EPA (federal law) I'm not sure I'm even allowed to do that unless I go get certified as a lead-safe contractor. The EPA's language states all activities that could disturb paint in pre-1978 buildings must be done by lead-safe contractors, even if there has never been a test done to confirm the presence of lead. The age of the home alone dictates it. If I stir up a bunch of lead dust and it gets in the HVAC system I could be in a lot of trouble, regardless of whether or not I wore my own mask...
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 11:58:29 AM by Neo »

LucyWreck

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Re: Landlords: How do you deal with lead paint?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2017, 01:26:28 PM »
You've prompted me to dig into the EPA stuff (which I'm not super-familiar with) and it's fascinating. And I'm not disagreeing with your read of the regulation.

But that said, my personal read is that a small repair/repaint done DIY is very low-risk, at least as a starting point to see if that ameliorates the problem relatively easily. The internet is filled with lead-paint-remediation how-tos. But YMMV, and if you want to be super-careful, it doesn't look like the EPA certification is too onerous. My guess is that if the EPA is particularly strict on this, most contractors will be in the system (but that's just a guess). A starting point that's probably not the only starting point: http://www.leadsafelist.com/renovators/Ohio/