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Questions about lead paint in older homes

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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 10:07 PM on Friday, November 11th, 2022

The house that we’re buying near our daughter on the East Coast was built in the 1950s (yea, new by their standards). We close in early December, and have a lead paint test scheduled for the next day. Our realtor has told us that, since the house was built before 1978, it’s highly likely to have lead paint.

Our plan (I’m using the term lightly) was to rent the house for a while, while we work with an architect, designer, and builder to come up with a plan to enlarge it and renovate what is there. But evidently MA is one of the most strict states when it comes to renting to families with children under 7, where there is lead paint.

We have a potential renter - the friend of our D, who has a baby. They are doing some work on their house and need a temporary short-term rental, which would work great for us, as we only want short-term while we take care of all the pre- construction tasks. The potential renters know that we will be getting it tested for lead paint, and understand the strict MA laws, but say they want to rent even if there is lead paint.

I reached out to our real estate attorney, who said it’s a very risky move on our part - that disclosing the presence of lead paint does not protect us legally in MA. So if the house has lead paint, we have to find some way to remediate it quickly if we want this renter.

This whole idea of lead paint is foreign to us. What are the possibilities of what they could find when they test, and are there any remediation options, other than replacing windows and doors? We’re going to be replacing windows when we remodel (they’re currently single-pane), so we don’t want to do that now. Besides, I think there’s a supply chain issue with windows, so it might take longer to get any in, than the potential renters would be willing to wait.

What are some questions we could be researching at this time?

Me: BW
Him: WH
Married - 30+ years
Two adult daughters
1st affair: 2005-2007
2nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017
Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addiction
Status: R

posts: 1086   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: Southern California
id 8764834
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Superesse ( member #60731) posted at 11:48 PM on Friday, November 11th, 2022

Hi, number4, this old building inspector chiming in (again)... I heard something similar from an attorney I paid to advise us when a friend's daughter wanted to rent my cute 1930 bungalow. It had a well that was never added to county sanitation records, and from my purchasing the house, I knew was likely to be contaminated with E. coli, as it was an old-style, shallow well that may have picked up leached ground water contaminated with septic effluent from the too-small 1947 septic system.

I told my friend that we never drank the water there, but they both assured me it wasn't an issue, and they even owned a similar property so they would never, ever fuss about that.

Well, the attorney set me straight: under landlord-tenant laws (in Virginia) I would be assuming liability for not providing "potable water," even IF the tenant totally agreed to drink bottled water, etc. and as I understood the attorney, even if it was IN WRITING, since the law mandated I must provide the tenant with a safe source of drinking (potable) water. Yikes. Plus she said if I knowingly had rented under those conditions, it would look bad for me in court if, let's say, her kids got sick from drinking that water. She said "people can tell you this but if injury occurs, their feelings can change, really quick."
Gulp....(sorry about the pun).

Upshot of it was that we actually lost long-time friends over this, after I decided we had to decline their repeatedly pressuring us to rent the old house to their daughter!

With lead-based paint, I know that complete removal isn't always feasible, but getting the property inspected for its presence, and certifying via a lead-based paint contractor that all such surfaces have been re-coated, may or may not protect you legally. I don't know... Renters can bring more headaches than you can imagine, or so I was told. It would depend on how much of the paint was lead-based, and I'm assuming interior surfaces are the ones most likely to be of concern? They could also mean exterior surfaces, not sure of the laws there.

Sorry but I think you are getting wise advice.

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8764848
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Chili ( member #35503) posted at 2:19 AM on Saturday, November 12th, 2022

Hey number4:

MA does have its own set of regulations for lead-based paint on top of the Federal ones. Your best bet would be to reach out to their Bureau of Environmental Health regarding their tenant disclosure regulations. I think they have a fairly well-informed website as well.

Note: this is not me interpreting MA regulations, but depending on the results of the lead inspection or risk assessment, you might have options for remediation. For example: removing and replacing windows is considered abatement. But for some components that aren't friction or impact, say something like crown molding, often there are options for interim controls (like scraping and repainting or covering) that make surfaces temporarily "lead-safe" for a certain period of time until abatement can be conducted.

I believe MA also has a searchable database to see if previous inspections have been conducted - you might look and see if your property is listed.

I'd say see what the inspection says and go from there. You have options that aren't all or nothing. Most of the housing stock in the state is fairly old, so lead paint on both interior and exterior of properties is not uncommon.

2012 pretty much sucked.
Things no longer suck.
Loving flying solo with the co-pilot chili dog.
"Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough" - Tony Bennett

posts: 2208   ·   registered: May. 2nd, 2012   ·   location: Reality
id 8764862
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 number4 (original poster member #62204) posted at 5:37 PM on Saturday, November 12th, 2022

@Superesse - that's exactly what I was thinking - they say that now, but if their kid gets sick, their tune would change pretty quickly. In MA, you would not have to prove where the child gets lead poisoning, only that that they got lead poisoning. Also, our insurance wouldn't cover us. Even if the child can't reach the window sills, in opening and closing of the windows, lead paint dust can land on the floor, end up on one of the child's toys that the child could then put in their mouth. It's just really risky, and we're curious to know what it would take to remediate it. I guess it all depends on where the lead paint is.

To make it more complicated, the potential renter said it didn't really matter to them because they probably have lead paint in their current home that they're about to remodel. So the baby has been exposed, and we wouldn't be able to prove it wasn't from our house, and that it was likely in their house. I guess it all boils down to where it is in our house.

But your situation sounded like a lose-lose situation - you did what you had to do, but lost a friendship. That's really sad. The fact that they kept pressuring you to rent to their daughter, though, says it wasn't probably the kind of friendship that was going to end well. What an awkward situation!

@Chili - thanks for suggesting the website; will check it out and see what we can learn. But it's interesting to hear that certain lead paint exposures can be abated more easily than others. I appreciate hearing that it may not be all or nothing... that leaves a glimmer of hope.

The property hasn't changed hands since 1962, so there's no record of any inspections, at least any that have been digitized in the town records (our SIL did a search for us). They did put on an addition of a master bedroom and another bathroom, maybe twenty years ago, so there's likely not lead paint in those rooms, but I don't know if, in doing that work, they would have had to bring all other parts of the house that were left untouched during the remodel up to code.

I'm definitely in the camp of not renting this place unless the lead paint testing comes back negative, or the presence of it is small enough that it would be easy to remediate it.

Me: BW
Him: WH
Married - 30+ years
Two adult daughters
1st affair: 2005-2007
2nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017
Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addiction
Status: R

posts: 1086   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: Southern California
id 8764913
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Superesse ( member #60731) posted at 5:54 PM on Saturday, November 12th, 2022

number4, you are thinking right, especially with the casual comments that their other house likely already has lead paint, too. So maybe they aren't worried now, when they want new digs....but moods change. Something unrelated that could go wrong in the rental relationship, could bring it all back to mind. People often don't anticipate that but we BSs have BTDT so yes, it is a "potential" liability.

Trouble is, now that you have discussed this with them, from a legal aspect I'd say before renting it to them, you would want to dot every "i" and cross every "t" with the lead inspection and remediation folks, and document everything, to scratch that concern off the mental list, so they would know it, going in, KWIM?

Thank you for echoing what my best friend and former neighbor told me at the time. She had a house she rented out after her 2nd marriage, and had lots of experience with bad renters (she was such a trusting soul, and got taken advantage of by so many). She really surprised me when she said exactly the same as you, "if they would push you that hard after you told them your reasons for deciding against renting it, then they weren't your friends as much as you thought!" I had initally been open to the idea but doing my due diligence was an eye-opener. They just felt I made their life difficult, since it was their grandkids they wanted nearby - but see how that could have turned ugly?

My friend also told me about how the courts deal with disputes if one ever needs to collect back rent, as she often had to do: the weight of the law falls on the side of the tenant. She said because I was in the building inspection business, I would be in a pickle if anything like that came up. I agreed. My old house sat vacant for years because of that, but we finally got it all fixed and an updated water treatment system installed, and sold it "as is."

Keep up the good work and listrn to what Chili says, too.

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8764915
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