TIP OF THE MONTH - March 2014

Source: Environmental Issues in your Real Estate Practice
              Marie S. Spodek, DREI,GRI with Bill Magargal


Lead is a heavy, soft, malleable, blue-gray metal found either as a natural ore or a by-product of smelting silver.  In its natural state, lead is not a problem. Once processed
however, it is a part of the environment forever. There is no known way to dispose of lead nor a method to render lead harmless.

Easy to find and easy to manipulate, lead has been used continuously and extensively for more than seven centuries.  Some historians have suggested that the decline of the Roman Empire was brought on by undetected lead poisoning.  Greeks determined that lead is a poison, but early doctors continued to use lead as a medicine.

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution through the end of W.W. II, lead usage intensified.  During this time, lead was found in just about all aspects of daily life: electrical storage batteries, ammunition, gasoline, wooden window weights, building construction, roofing, cornices, solder in electrical conduit, and water and sewer pipes.

In its most extensive use was as a pigment in paints, and sometimes in varnishes and primers.  Today we live with that legacy.


By the end of W.W. II, public health officials became increasingly aware of the poisonous effects of lead on humans and pushed hard for reductions in lead usage.  Eventually, this resulted in the banning of lead in gasoline in the early 1970’s and from paint in 1978.

At the present time, Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992, know as the Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (LBPHRA), seeks to control exposure to lead-based paint hazards.  Federal funds are available to assist states in developing training and certification programs for anyone providing testing or remediation services.  The Act is a major step for the federal government.  It is the first time that the feds have become involved with residential real estate transfer, and it specifically mentions protecting children under the age of six. (6)


The law puts the burden of compliance on sellers and lessors, requiring them to disclose any prior test results or any actual knowledge of lead-based paint hazards.  If a real estate licensee is involved, then the listing agent must advise sellers of their obligations to make the required disclosures.  Any other agents involved in the transaction (subagent, buyer’s agent, facilitator) are also responsible for seeing that the owners comply.  The only agents who are exempt are buyer’s agents who are paid entirely by the buyer.

Records should be kept for a minimum of three years for completed transactions.

REMEMBER: No one has to test; no one has to abate.

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This web page was updated on 02/27/2014.