In the United States, about 64 million homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Exposure to lead-based paint can cause developmental issues, reduced intelligence, behavior problems, and other health dangers in children. Lead can also be harmful to adults, and it can damage the brain and other organs and lead to abnormal fetal development.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development developed regulations for disclosing the presence of lead-based paint. These laws apply to housing built before 1977 and federally-funded housing. It does not apply to:
- Housing built after 1977;
- “Zero-bedroom dwellings,” i.e., lofts and studios;
- Vacation homes and short-term rentals leased for less than 30 days;
- Housing for elderly and handicapped people;
- Foreclosures; and
- Rental housing certified free of lead-based paint via inspection.
The law requires disclosures of lead hazards. However, it does not require the removal of lead-based paint.
Particularly in California, lead-based paint is a widespread hazard. A 2017 Reuters study showed California cities where children’s lead poisoning rates were higher than in Flint, Michigan—especially Fresno and Alameda County. This elevated rate may be due to the presence of many old houses and buildings.
Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Laws in California for Landlords and Sellers
EPA and HUD regulations require the following responsibilities of sellers and landlords:
- Ensure that prospective tenants and buyers receive the EPA’s Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home pamphlet and are informed of known lead hazards;
- Ensure that when tenants sign new leases and lease renewals, they also sign a disclosure acknowledging they have received information about lead hazards;
- Make inspection records and reports available to tenants and buyers;
- Cooperate with buyers to allow them to conduct a lead-based paint inspection within a 10 days; and
- Include certain notification and disclosure language in contracts and leases of the owner’s compliance with laws regarding lead paint disclosure in California.
Real estate agents also share responsibility for ensuring compliance with California lead paint disclosure laws.
California Lead Paint Disclosure Laws for Painters and Contractors
The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program requires contractors working in structures with lead paint to be EPA-certified and follow certain work practices. In California, the contractors must also be lead-certified by the State. Lead hazards can come from deteriorated lead paint, lead paint dust, or lead-contaminated soil. When a repair or renovation project creates a lead hazard, certain remediation efforts must be made. The lead-certified contractor must undertake repairs to comply with the California lead law for renovations. This involves containment and disposal done in a certain way. Tenants are legally allowed to vacate the premises while repairs proceed at the landlord’s expense.
Penalties for Noncompliance with California Lead-Based Disclosure Laws
Sellers, landlords, or real estate agents that don’t comply with California lead-based paint disclosure requirements may face the following:
- Civil fines up to $10,000;
- Criminal fines up to $10,000 and up to one year of imprisonment; and
- Up to three times the amount of the buyer’s or renter’s damages.
Damages are specific to each violation and may increase exponentially as violations add up.
In 2019, the EPA settled with five companies that failed to comply with the federal regulations for over $64,000. Four of the five violations were for renovation companies that were not certified and did not follow the proper procedures. The fifth company was fined $32,000, almost half of the total amount, for failing to comply with California lead paint laws about disclosure requirements.
Can a Tenant or Buyer Sue Their Landlord or Seller for Lead Paint Poisoning?
If your landlord fails to properly disclose lead hazards, they could be liable to tenants in a private lawsuit. Some landlords also choose to cut corners and renovate the homes themselves rather than having a contractor do it. If so, they are likely violating the law and may also be liable for any injuries suffered by the present or future tenants.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
The early stages of lead poisoning may be easy to overlook, especially in children. They include:
- High blood pressure;
- Stomach Pain;
- Hearing loss; and
Long-term exposure can cause learning disabilities, gastrointestinal damage, kidney damage, and memory loss, among other ailments.
If you suspect lead poisoning, a lead test is the only way to know for sure whether or not your concern is valid. Treatment may include medications to flush the lead from the body, and avoiding further exposure is critical.
Lead Paint Exposure Claims
You can recover financial compensation for your damages from lead poisoning caused by a tenant’s or landlord’s negligence in renovating or failure to disclose lead paint hazards. You can be compensated for losses resulting from:
- Past and future medical care related to the lead poisoning;
- Injury-related expenses such as prescriptions, travel to appointments, and treatments;
- Loss of personal property; and
- Pain and suffering.
If you or someone else in your family has suffered lead poisoning, or your landlord or seller did not properly disclose a lead hazard, your first priority is to get treated and tested. Your next step should be to call a lead poisoning lawyer.
Riley | Ersoff LLP & Shakhnis Is California’s Lead Poisoning Law Firm
Riley | Ersoff LLP & Shakhnis is the only California law firm that primarily focuses on lead poisoning claims. Our practice focuses primarily on California lead poisoning lawsuits—so we know what we are doing. We have recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients. Most recently, we recovered almost three million dollars for two successful settlements. Please feel free to look at our website to get more information about the results we have obtained for our clients. If you suspect you or a loved one has suffered from lead poisoning, please contact us immediately to discuss your claim.