Author Topic: Radon in Rental - Colorado  (Read 8744 times)

therethere

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Radon in Rental - Colorado
« on: July 17, 2015, 02:30:44 PM »
Not sure what I'm looking for in this post. General experience with the issue I guess. We've been renting a house in Colorado for about 3 years. Above 6 months ago, when we first turned the heat on for the winter, my cat started sounding congested and lost its meow. Trips to the vet with  Xray, antibiotics, and a shot for asthma had not yielded any results. About a month ago, I got the idea that it could be radon which caused lung complications. Just a shot in the dark really.

I know radon is a widespread in Colorado. And that its pretty standard to do radon testing when buying a house and have them mitigate it prior to closing. I did not ever connect the dots and think that I should do a radon test in a place I'm renting though. I'm surprised being that there is such a large issue, that it is completely ignored in rental units. I've seen no mention of radon in any Colorado specific tenant rights documents at all which is odd considering it is an issue across the entire state.

We just did a short term radon test which yielded a result of 6.1 (anything over 4 is recommended to be mitigated). We've requested the landlord step in to do mitigation but I'm not too hopeful that they will do anything about it. That said, how hard should we pushing for them to mitigate it? Has anyone ever run into an issue with this before on either the landlord or tenant side and how did you handle it? Also, would you consider testing future rentals for radon, and if so at what point in time? The test takes 3 days, so you presumably would have to be moved in already and therefore have no recourse in the lease.

El_Viajero

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2015, 06:42:16 PM »
Radon is serious stuff, and you need to insist that the landlord step in and install a system to mitigate its entry into the home. One of my in-laws is currently dying (she has a prognosis of just a few months) of lung cancer, and we're almost completely sure it's from radon. She's in her late 30s; she never smoked; after her diagnosis with Stage 4 cancer, they performed a radon test and found off-the-charts levels of the stuff in her house. And yes, the house is in Colorado.

If I were you, I would tell my landlord to install the radon mitigation/elimination system immediately. If the landlord balks, you should move. Period. And always ask any new or potential landlord for the results of the last radon test.

Sorry if that sounds dire, but this one hits close to home for me. Don't shrug off radon in your home. It can kill you.

That said, the systems they install to pipe radon out of (or away from) your home are actually super effective. Once it's installed, you're in the clear.

Papa bear

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2015, 09:09:22 PM »
My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from another poster) radon is not that big of a deal.  It's everywhere, comes from the ground everywhere, and wasn't ever a problem until the 80's when some enterprising contractors decided that they could make some bucks by installing tarps in crawl spaces with a vacuum.  This theory is shared by others in my circle, including contractors and engineers. (No doctors though)

Given that it's a rental, it never hurts to ask to have it mitigated.  If you feel it's a major problem, and the landlord doesn't mitigate, it may be grounds to potentially break the lease and move out. 




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Fishingmn

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2015, 06:20:02 AM »
As a landlord I would allow you to break your lease and move but would probably not mitigate.

Typical cost is around $1,500 in my area - it would be cheaper as a landlord to let you move out.

therethere

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2015, 09:04:23 AM »
Well the radon guy came out yesterday for an estimate. 4k.... Apparently they don't make crawlspaces of old houses very accessible. Really anxious to see what the landlord will do about it. I'm pretty sure radon is what has caused health issues with my cat. She wheezes constantly and struggles to breath. It continues to get worse and the vet can't tell what's wrong. It started to show up when we turned the furnace (in the dirt floor basement) on for the first time for this winter. Likely pushing out more of the basement air since ALL the duct work has giant holes in it.

The major heartbreak is rent has skyrocketed in Denver. We would never be able to find a comparable place for the same rent which we are paying now (which is already above my comfort zone!). We would have to move far into the suburbs and still probably have to pay more for less. Before this, I had also been toying with the idea of offering to buy the place from the landlord under market without a realtor. So I'm not really sure how this plays into everything. Other than potential to give us cancer this is a great house....

The landlord seems like he'd be a good guy. I'm hoping he fixes it. I doubt he would be able to sell the house without mitigation. And I personally would deliver the radon results to the next tenants if we moved and he rented it without any mitigation.

Mirwen

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2015, 09:23:35 AM »
Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause cancer with long term exposure.  This is a real issue, but I highly doubt it has caused the breathing issues with your cat.  Radon doesn't directly cause breathing issues, it can cause cancer that if very advanced could lead to breathing issues.  Don't you trust your vet to detect advanced lung cancer? 

I'm not saying that you shouldn't do something about the radon gas, but take some time to really understand the issue before you go tilting at windmills.  The radon comes from the ground and the way to get rid of it is basically ventilation.  You can do this yourself with windows and fans.  There is no urgent need to move.  Slow down and relax.  Don't make decisions out of fear.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2015, 09:28:34 AM by Mirwen »

icebox92

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2015, 10:04:39 AM »
 
Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause cancer with long term exposure.  This is a real issue, but I highly doubt it has caused the breathing issues with your cat.  Radon doesn't directly cause breathing issues, it can cause cancer that if very advanced could lead to breathing issues.  Don't you trust your vet to detect advanced lung cancer? 

I'm not saying that you shouldn't do something about the radon gas, but take some time to really understand the issue before you go tilting at windmills.  The radon comes from the ground and the way to get rid of it is basically ventilation.  You can do this yourself with windows and fans.  There is no urgent need to move.  Slow down and relax.  Don't make decisions out of fear.

This.  We have bought two homes in Colorado.  One originally did not have a mitigation system installed, we requested on to be installed during the inspection process.  The sellers did this (they were very motivated sellers and this was at the bottom of the market), but if they had objected to that we absolutely still would have bought the home.  I'm pretty sure quite a few potential buyers would overlook that issue, especially in this current Denver market.  Radon is everywhere in CO.  You are surrounded by it in daily life.  I wouldn't make any rash decisions because of this issue.  Research and work with the landlord.

Candace

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2015, 10:19:37 AM »
If you are thinking you would like to buy the property if it is mitigated, how about making an offer that takes into account your expense to install the mitigation system yourself? You could even lowball a bit since your landlord could be at a disadvantage if you move out and make any potential tenants aware of the radon problem. It's not as if you'd be doing something unethical -- anyone who would live there should know about the problem. If the owner is bummed at all about the issue, you might be doing them a favor and also be able to get the place at a lower price.

KCM5

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2015, 10:30:18 AM »
If you are thinking you would like to buy the property if it is mitigated, how about making an offer that takes into account your expense to install the mitigation system yourself? You could even lowball a bit since your landlord could be at a disadvantage if you move out and make any potential tenants aware of the radon problem. It's not as if you'd be doing something unethical -- anyone who would live there should know about the problem. If the owner is bummed at all about the issue, you might be doing them a favor and also be able to get the place at a lower price.

This.

Also, as stated above, the issue with radon is long term exposure. A level of 6 (which we also had in our house and had a mitigation system installed) is something to get taken care of, but isn't going to hurt you over the course of a few months.

Regarding the cat's breathing issues, have you paid attention to mold/dust?

therethere

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2015, 10:44:25 AM »
We had thrown around the idea of buying the place earlier. This neighborhood is awesome and we'd always be able to rent it should we buy it then later decide to move on to another place. There have been so many maintenance issues that I'm sure the guy is sick of dealing with them (and getting raped by the property management company) over them. However, we do not have nearly enough money saved. We have maybe 25k right now without pulling from retirement accounts which would be <10%. I'm not sure how clued in my landlord is to the insane real estate market either since he is out of state. So that would have the potential go in our favor. I would not pay anywhere near to market value for this house (or any other) as I think the Denver market is completely inflated right now.

I realize its not a must move immediately situation. The primary issue is that I hoping to not to move for another 1.5-3 years. The rental market here is crazy. We'd have to dramatically downsize, or move way outside the city and pay more plus commute more which I am not ready for. I was hoping to stay put with minimal rent increases to allow us to save more money until we determine our next life steps.

Really I can't do anything right now except wait. I'm just a worry-wart and try to forecast ahead as best I can. I cannot be at peace when there is uncertainty in my life.

Regarding my kitty, asthma medication and antibiotics have done nothing. X-rays are inconclusive. We decided she is on kitty hospice and are okay with that. More cuddles and rubs with daily wet food and she seems happy. Even if it wasn't directly caused by radon, it feels better to call it that.

Fishingmn

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2015, 01:37:52 PM »
I'm hoping he fixes it. I doubt he would be able to sell the house without mitigation. And I personally would deliver the radon results to the next tenants if we moved and he rented it without any mitigation.

This reflects poorly on you.

Spend $4k to improve my below market rental or I'll try and sabotage your future rentals?

Roboturner

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2015, 11:31:50 AM »
I'm hoping he fixes it. I doubt he would be able to sell the house without mitigation. And I personally would deliver the radon results to the next tenants if we moved and he rented it without any mitigation.

This reflects poorly on you.

Spend $4k to improve my below market rental or I'll try and sabotage your future rentals?

I disagree, now that the owner has been made aware of the issue he is legally obligated to disclose the information (for sure if selling, would be shocked if it didnt apply to rentals as well)

Roboturner

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2015, 11:40:01 AM »
At the very least morally obligated

therethere

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2015, 12:30:37 PM »
Yes, I would not see telling the next renters as sabotaging or trying to screw the owner over. If you moved your family into there wouldn't you want to know? I wouldn't go make a big stink, probably just drop the report off with a quick note saying "Not sure if the landlord let you know..."

Besides, the place is below market because the property management company sucks. Repairs take months. Some never get done after reporting them over and over. Repairs are always half-assed so the longer you stay the worse shape the place gets. We've been there 3 years, the place is in worse condition than when we moved in. Holes in drywall. Ceiling stained, cracked, and peeling where leaks have been (they finally fixed the leak but not the drywall/cosmetics).

El_Viajero

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2015, 03:34:55 PM »
My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from another poster) radon is not that big of a deal.  It's everywhere, comes from the ground everywhere, and wasn't ever a problem until the 80's when some enterprising contractors decided that they could make some bucks by installing tarps in crawl spaces with a vacuum. 

How about this:

My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from cancer victims) is that cigarettes are not that big of a deal. They're everywhere. They grow tobacco all over the place, and it wasn't really a problem until the 1950s when some enterprising medical researchers decided they could reduce people's lung cancer risk by convincing them to stop smoking.

I'm hoping he fixes it. I doubt he would be able to sell the house without mitigation. And I personally would deliver the radon results to the next tenants if we moved and he rented it without any mitigation.

This reflects poorly on you.

Spend $4k to improve my below market rental or I'll try and sabotage your future rentals?

Here's what you're saying: The landlord might be too cowardly to tell his or her tenants about the potentially deadly high levels of radon in the home,  but who am I to get in the way of that landlord's profits? It makes much more sense to let the new tenants unwittingly expose themselves to a cancer-causing substance so that the landlord can save $4k.

Sorry, but this post (and this attitude) reflects poorly on you, not the person who altruistically steps in to save a life.

psinguine

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2015, 04:19:52 PM »
How about some actual numbers instead of speculation?

Courtesy of Health Canada:

The risk from radon exposure for a smoker (including those exposed to second hand smoke) is much greater than for a non-smoker. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker but are not exposed to radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is one in ten. If you add exposure to a high level of radon, your risk becomes one in three. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, your lifetime lung cancer risk at the same high radon level is only one in twenty.

That's some good information. Enlightening even. But we have to ask, what are the odds for a non smoker who hasn't been exposed to radon? That number proves surprisingly difficult to track down. The odds, however, seem largely to depend on genetic, hereditary, and other lifestyle factors.  Interesting to note that workplace factors (fiberglass, asbestos, etc) are only marginally beat out by radon as cancer causing agents.

It's also important to remember that these findings are based on "long-term, lifetime, high level exposure." Back in the 80's "high" was considered a level of 800 or more. It has since been dialed back to 200.

What am I trying to prove? What's my angle? I don't have one. I just think that if we're going to disagree a out something we should at least be aware of the basic information.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2015, 07:07:14 PM »
You might be able to get it below 4 by simply putting a couple fans in the windows and have them push the air out. This is not as good as a mitigation system but will help some if the landlord is not willing to pay for the mitigation system. The rental market is so strong in Denver that I wouldn't expect any landlord to pay for this. There are rights to protect you from radon when purchasing, but not renting.

wordnerd

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2015, 07:29:42 PM »
From Nolo: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/landlord-responsibility-radon-rental-housing.html

Quote
A significant radon presence will make your rental  property "uninhabitable," and your tenants will have many legal ways to respond, such as withholding rent, moving out, or suing you. See the Nolo article Tenant Options if Your Landlord Won’t Make Major Repairs for advice on the subject.

Only a few states have specific laws regarding landlord radon disclosures or tenant education. These include Florida (Fla. Stat. Ann. §404.056) and Illinois (under the Illinois Radon Awareness Act, 420 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 46/15. 46/25).  Regardless of your state law requirements, if you own rental property in an area known to have radon problems (see the EPA Map of Radon Zones for details), but don’t test, warn tenants, or take action, you could be sued for harm that tenants suffer as a result.

It appears CO requires seller notification, but I don't see anything about tenant notification: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/radon-and-real-estate
« Last Edit: August 01, 2015, 07:36:28 PM by wordnerd »

wordnerd

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2015, 07:32:31 PM »
How about some actual numbers instead of speculation?

Courtesy of Health Canada:

The risk from radon exposure for a smoker (including those exposed to second hand smoke) is much greater than for a non-smoker. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker but are not exposed to radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is one in ten. If you add exposure to a high level of radon, your risk becomes one in three. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, your lifetime lung cancer risk at the same high radon level is only one in twenty.

That's some good information. Enlightening even. But we have to ask, what are the odds for a non smoker who hasn't been exposed to radon? That number proves surprisingly difficult to track down. The odds, however, seem largely to depend on genetic, hereditary, and other lifestyle factors.  Interesting to note that workplace factors (fiberglass, asbestos, etc) are only marginally beat out by radon as cancer causing agents.

It's also important to remember that these findings are based on "long-term, lifetime, high level exposure." Back in the 80's "high" was considered a level of 800 or more. It has since been dialed back to 200.

What am I trying to prove? What's my angle? I don't have one. I just think that if we're going to disagree a out something we should at least be aware of the basic information.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/brochure/profile_radon.htm

FIRE me

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2015, 08:59:07 PM »
First, I guarantee you that your cat's respiratory problems are not due to Radon. Radon's only known ill health effect is lung cancer.

Keep in mind that risk factors are based on a lifetime of exposure. So a year or two in a rental at 6.1 pCi/L is not too troubling, as long as you don't smoke. If you smoke, the risk factors don't add one to the other, they multiply, which is of course much worse.

As for future rentals, the obvious thing to do is ask if the potential rental has been tested, what were the results, and if they were high was a mitigation system installed and what are the post mitigation levels?

FIRE me

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2015, 09:10:04 PM »
My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from another poster) radon is not that big of a deal.  It's everywhere, comes from the ground everywhere, and wasn't ever a problem until the 80's when some enterprising contractors decided that they could make some bucks by installing tarps in crawl spaces with a vacuum. 

How about this:

My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from cancer victims) is that cigarettes are not that big of a deal. They're everywhere. They grow tobacco all over the place, and it wasn't really a problem until the 1950s when some enterprising medical researchers decided they could reduce people's lung cancer risk by convincing them to stop smoking.


Well said, and well rendered sarcasm there. I'm guessing that Papa bear is also an anti-vaxer, moon landing hoaxer, 9/11 conspiracy believer, Roswell UFO enthusiast, climate change denier, creationist theory subscriber, evolution denier, and Bigfoot booster.

There is no controversy. Radon causes lung cancer.

Papa bear

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2015, 09:28:26 PM »

My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from another poster) radon is not that big of a deal.  It's everywhere, comes from the ground everywhere, and wasn't ever a problem until the 80's when some enterprising contractors decided that they could make some bucks by installing tarps in crawl spaces with a vacuum. 

How about this:

My personal opinion (and not to take away from the anecdotal evidence from cancer victims) is that cigarettes are not that big of a deal. They're everywhere. They grow tobacco all over the place, and it wasn't really a problem until the 1950s when some enterprising medical researchers decided they could reduce people's lung cancer risk by convincing them to stop smoking.


Well said, and well rendered sarcasm there. I'm guessing that Papa bear is also an anti-vaxer, moon landing hoaxer, 9/11 conspiracy believer, Roswell UFO enthusiast, climate change denier, creationist theory subscriber, evolution denier, and Bigfoot booster.

There is no controversy. Radon causes lung cancer.

Far from it!  But funny nonetheless.  I doubt, however, there is a similar correlation to doctors making money off of telling patients (and the general public) to quit smoking as there is to contractors coming to every house in a neighborhood with scare tactics to install mitigation systems.

As others have said here, radon can be mitigated by opening a window.  Most homes leak tons of air and simply turning on the furnace fan can increase fresh air flow into the home as well.




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Telecaster

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Re: Radon in Rental - Colorado
« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2015, 11:21:05 PM »


Far from it!  But funny nonetheless.  I doubt, however, there is a similar correlation to doctors making money off of telling patients (and the general public) to quit smoking as there is to contractors coming to every house in a neighborhood with scare tactics to install mitigation systems.

As others have said here, radon can be mitigated by opening a window.  Most homes leak tons of air and simply turning on the furnace fan can increase fresh air flow into the home as well.



There is a statistically significant increase in lung cancer in areas of the country with elevated radon levels.  No question on that point.

The notion a shady contractor might sell you something you don't need doesn't change that fact.  Also important to recognize the solutions you suggested might not be practical in winter, and could draw air from non-fresh sources, like through the slab or crawl space (a non-trivial problem in many houses).  This can actually exacerbate the radon problem.