Just last week I read yet another article about an owner and its management company in California being threatened with a $330,000 fine for failure to give it’s tenants a lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazard disclosure notice as required under federal law. Yes, that number is correct – $330,000 – I did not mistakenly add an extra 0 or two. That is $11,000 per violation for the 30 alleged violations.
Just yesterday I was meeting with a new client to review his rental documents and assist him with a problem tenant issue. This client owns several properties in the city of Milwaukee and has owned one of them for over 10 years. After reviewing the rental documents that he was using and not noticing the lead-based paint disclosure form among them, I asked him if he gave his tenants the federally-mandated lead-based paint disclosure. He did not know what I was talking about – he was not aware of the law or the disclosure form.
It is federal law (24 C.F.R. Part 35, subpart A) that an owner, or its agent, of any property that was built before 1978, must disclose to any prospective tenant whether or not it has any knowledge of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the property and if so provide any written records of same if available. The owner/agent must also give the prospective tenant a copy of the E.P.A.-approved information pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead In Your Home.”
You must give these two documents to each and every tenant even if you have no knowledge of any lead-based paint issues in your property. Chances are that most, if not all, older housing stock has some layers of lead-based paint somewhere within it. The fines for failing to provide these documents to tenants are huge – as you can tell from the California article I reference above.
If you are interested in seeing a copy of the manual that the feds follow to determine what amount the fine should be for such violations click here. It is truly scary. You can be fined for failing to provide the above documents to tenants even if no one has been injured by ingesting lead-based paint chips or dust. You can be fined even if there are no children living in the unit. The fine is for failing to provide the disclosure form. If children are living in the unit or god forbid any child is injured as a result of ingesting lead-based paint at your rental property the fines just increase.
It is very easy to comply with this law and protect both yourself and your tenants. You can purchase a copy of the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure form at Wisconsin Legal Blank, Inc. The EPA pamphlet may also be purchased at WLB. The pamphlet is also available for free on the internet here. As long as you include all of the pertinent requirements you can even draft your own disclosure form.
Once you have purchased or drafted the disclosure form fill it out. If you are not aware of any lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards you simply check the applicable box on the form. If you have no documentation of any lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards (such as building code orders) you also check the applicable box. If you are aware of your property having lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards (i.e. you or some agency have conducted tests and/or you have been cited by your municipality) then you must disclose this information and also attach any written documentation that you have in your possession regarding this.
Once you have accurately completed the form you should sign and date it. You should then give a copy of the form and the EPA-approved pamphlet to each adult and have them sign and date it. This disclosure form is the first document you should be having your soon-to-be tenant reviewing and signing when you meet with them to review and sign your rental documents. The law says that you should be providing this disclosure form to prospective tenants – so they should be receiving the disclosure before they sign the rental agreement and actually become tenants.
If you are reading this post and have not provided your current tenants with the disclosure form and the pamphlet I would suggest that you take action immediately and get these two documents to them ASAP. Late disclosure is better then no disclosure.
With such large fines levied by the government for such failure to disclose lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards I am extremely cautious and often advise my clients to provide new disclosure forms and a new EPA-approved pamphlet to tenants every time they sign a renewal or enter into a new rental agreement. It probably is not necessary but I’d rather be safe then sorry.