Failure to Disclose Lead Paint in Rentals – Landlord's Liability and Consequences


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When a landlord is responsible for the welfare of his or her tenants in general situations where a property is rented or leased, he or she could be liable for damages and other penalties if he or she has not disclosed that lead paint has been used in the rental house. This could lead to litigation where the landlord must pay for injuries or damages.

When a rental home has been built before 1980, there is a possibility that toxic substances or chemicals were used on doors, in windows, in the paint in and around the house or in insulation. These materials and substances could lead to health ailments and conditions for tenants when exposed through breath inhalation, skin contact or accidental consumption. When there is lead paint in or around the property, the tenants may have a right to know this or have the toxic problem removed before moving in. It is the lead-based paints that are one of the worst hazards that someone living in a building may face.

If a rental property has this substance around that could come into contact with the tenants, the landlord could be held responsible for resolving the matter before it becomes worse. If the renters have been explained that lead-based paint has been used in the house, and they move in anyway, the liability may be lifted from the landlord in certain situations. However, any failure to disclose this information may pose severe consequences for the owner or landlord of the property. This then would lead to possible litigation or compensation requested for medical bills. It is important to ensure a lawyer has been consulted in these matters.

Why the Lead-Based Paint is a Problem

Lead-based paint toxicity was unknown for decades, and the injuries sustained were attributed to other problems in the past. The material was not banned in the United States until 1977, and there are hundreds to thousands of houses that still have this paint on the outside or used within for certain rooms. Similar to asbestos, the toxic harm that the substance causes may harm those that reside within. Some furniture has this material on it, and contact could lead to further health problems. The lead is highly toxic to humans when it is ingested. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to injury.

Some symptoms that lead paint has come into contact with someone include seizures, nausea and vomiting, headaches and migraines, fatigue, irritable bowels and similar circumstances. For children that are still developing, the kidneys and brain may sustain injury and could lead to behavioral issues and disabilities with learning. The ingestion of this material usually occurs through touch with the hand and then sticking fingers or the whole hand into the mouth. The paint chips are consumed in this
manner, and symptoms may show immediately or take time before it is clear someone has consumed a toxin.

Landlord Responsibilities with Lead Paint

A law was implemented in 1992 that requires a landlord to disclose if a building has lead-based paint involved in the decorations or construction. For any property that was built before 1978, the landlord is required by law and through the Environmental Protection Agency to disclose this information to tenants. A very specific process must be followed, and this includes given additional information and a source to the EPA’s brochure for reports or records of tests on rental properties. Both parties must completed and sign a checklist when involved in these situations. The disclosure form must be kept for up to
three years once the tenant signs a lease agreement with the specific rental property.

If the landlord fails to adhere to the law, he or she may face significant legal ramifications such as penalties for violations and fines that are incurred for each violation he or she has performed. If injury to health has been sustained by the tenant, damages for these ailments and conditions may be initiated through litigation. Courts involved in these matters often pursue punitive damages as well as the usual compensation based on the legal violations.

Legal Help in Lead Paint Violations

When someone has been injured through lead paint and the landlord has not followed the appropriate procedure, the tenant should contact a lawyer immediately. Starting a claim is important and could lead to a successful compensation case when the evidence is gathered properly. The lawyer needs to argue the case, but judges are more inclined to award damages when the tenant has been injured by the paint.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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