In 1992, Congress enacted Title X, which requires landlords to disclose lead hazards to their tenants. In 1996, further changes were added to this law, which included mandatory disclosure for all landlords of leased property built before 1978. Title X does not apply to most landlords who offer month-to-month rental agreements or landlords that lease out property for less than 100 days.
If you own property that was built before 1978, there are specific regulations that you must follow. If you sell the property, you will also be required to disclose information about any lead on the property.
The first requirement is that you must provide your tenants with an EPA-approved pamphlet called “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” which informs your tenants of the dangers of lead poisoning. If you do not have copies of this pamphlet, contact your state’s property management agency to obtain them. You may also call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD or download copies from the EPA Web site.
You must also provide tenants with a disclosure form stating if there is any lead paint or other health hazard resulting from the presence of lead within the property. This does not specifically include stating dangers resulting from lead in drinking water; you are only required to disclose dangers that may arise from lead paint, lead dust, or soil that may be contaminated with lead.
Under Title X, you are not required to disclose if there are any present or past tenants who have developed lead poisoning. This disclosure was not included in Title X because it can be difficult to determine the exact causes of lead poisoning.
Even if you do not provide your tenant with a written lease agreement, you are still required by federal follow to follow the disclosure process set down by Title X.
If you offer a month-to-month rental agreement for your tenants, you will not need to comply with Title X mandatory disclosures until you change the terms of the rental agreement. For example, if you decide to increase the amount of rent, you would then need to follow the disclosures required by Title X.
Landlords who plan to allow their tenants to sublet will need to educate these tenants on Title X, as the sublessor will be responsible for notifying the tenants to whom they are subletting the property.
In recent years, many landlords have inserted liability waivers onto their lead disclosure forms in the hopes that this will shield them from liability should a tenant get lead poisoning. But under Title X, these waivers do not absolve you of your liability as a landlord.
If your property contains lead paint, you will need to maintain the property to avoid having the paint chip or peel. Good maintenance will reduce the amount of lead that your tenants are exposed to and can help protect their health. Ask your tenants to be vigilant in spotting any paint peeling or chipping problems so you can attend to them promptly.
Because renovation may disturb lead paint particles, if you plan on renovating a property that was built prior to 1978 that has lead paint, you will need to give your tenants 60 days’ notice before beginning the renovations. This notice is in addition to the mandatory disclosures you made when your tenants moved in.
There are several exemptions to Title X, including properties that were built after 1977; properties that do not have a bedroom, such as a dorm room, loft, or studio apartment; housing occupied exclusively by elderly or disabled persons; properties that will be leased for less than 100 days; a property that has been found to be “lead paint free;” and properties where the disclosure has already been made and no further information is available. But before you assume your property is exempt from Title X regulations, be sure to contact the EPA or your attorney to be sure.
Violating Title X regulations can result in some very stiff fines — up to $10,000 for each violation. If your tenant becomes sick from lead poisoning, you may have to provide the tenant monetary compensation of up to three times the amount that the tenant suffered in damages.