6 must-know facts about lead paint & rental units

Lindsey Feitelberg
Lindsey Feitelberg | 5 min. read

Published on April 16, 2015

In the early days of my property management career, I worked as a bookkeeper in my mom’s office and handled basic resident requests.  The first major step in advancing my career was earning my real estate license. As I sat through class with the know-it-all attitude of a young adult and heir to a real-estate dynasty, the words “lead paint” and “death,” mentioned in the same sentence by my instructor, yanked me right out of my dream state.

Wait! Who said anything about death in the world of property management? I ran outside to call my mom and asked if there actually was something in her buildings that could kill me?!

After my mom talked me off the real estate ledge, I promised myself that if I could ever educate another property manager, whether new to the field or a veteran, about the ins and outs of lead paint, I would.

Without further ado, here are the top five things I learned about lead paint, on the job:

#1: If you’re a real estate agent, rejecting tenants because your units contain  lead paint could cost you your license

I know, this one might sound surprising, but you can’t deny an application because your units have lead paint, the prospective tenant has a child, and you don’t want to rent your units to families with children.

This is discrimination, and as a landlord, you’ll likely face legal action, and as a real estate agent, you could lose your license. As a property manager, it’s your responsibility to comply with your state’s laws regarding lead paint care and/or removal before a tenant with a child moves in.

#2: Lead paint is still very much around, mostly in pre-1978 homes

If you manage a property built before 1978, it’s very possible lead paint is somewhere inside. Back then, most owners used lead paint because it was efficient and the dangers were unknown.

Other than the health risks discovered in more recent times (more on that in a bit), lead paint was opaque and coated walls very well with only a small amount of product. Lead paint also lasted longer, cracked less, and required far less maintenance than today’s non-toxic paints.

#3: Lead paint is dangerous — especially to children, pregnant women, and pets

Here are the basics on the dangers of lead paint: in children, lead paint can cause learning problems, lower IQ, slowed or delayed growth, hearing problems, anemia, seizures, and possibly death. In pregnant woman, lead paint can cause premature birth and possible birth defects. In pets, lead paint can cause severe digestive issues, seizures, blindness, and possible death if the exposure is large enough.

#4: The risk of lead paint illnesses or fatalities is far worse when surfaces are cracked

If the paint on your walls is cracking or otherwise damaged, it’s more likely children or pets can ingest the chips that fall as a result of wear and tear. Even the smallest amount of lead paint dust can cause illnesses in unsuspecting humans or our animal friends.

Word to the wise: if you have lead paint on your walls, watch closely for cracking and flaking and remediate the problem immediately. One course of action is to hire a licensed contractor specializing in lead paint maintenance to cover the unit in materials that completely coat the lead.

#5: Always disclose that your units contain lead paint

During the leasing process, most states require you to have your tenants sign a lead-based paint disclosure form acknowledging they’re aware of the presence of lead paint.

#6: Lead paint laws differ from state to state

Every state has different laws regarding the removal and/or care of a home that contains lead paint. For example, Massachusetts lead paint law requires removal or the strict maintenance of a unit that contains lead paint and has an inhabitant under the age of six living there. (This scenario arises when a woman already inhabiting an apartment with lead paint has a child and wants to stay.)

The state requires owners to remove lead paint from every such unit or have a licensed contractor and specialist completely cover the surface as describe in Fact #4. My best advice: check out your state’s government website for more information on state laws.

To wrap it up: lead paint, while scary, is not (pardon my pun) the kiss of death for your properties or your property management career. Educate yourself, and know that whatever you find within your walls, you can fix it with a bit of time and patience. And if you need to hire a contractor it will cost you, but the investment certainly is worth it.

What experiences have you had with lead paint? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom for your fellow property managers? Leave a comment below and let us know about what you’ve encountered.

This blog submission is only for purposes of disseminating information. It does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by virtue of reading this blog entry or submitting a comment thereto. If you need legal advice, please hire a licensed attorney in your state.

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Lindsey Feitelberg

Lindsey was on the Customer Onboarding team at Buildium. She holds degrees in both English and Classical Voice, and has spent time working in residential sales and property management.

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