If you thought asbestos was a problem, wait until you hear about lead. Found in 57 million private homes in the United States (two million in New York City), lead-based paint poisons young children, reduces IQs, and causes learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems. Children are regularly poisoned by eating dust created when lead-based paint is disturbed during a renovation, paint preparation, even from the friction of windows going up and down. Anyone who owns, rents, or sells pre-l978 residential property faces new laws, little insurance, and the specter of expensive lawsuits. As a result, co-op owners, co-op boards and co-op managing agents must educate themselves about the hazards of lead.
The New Law
Recently, lead issues have attracted increased media attention in part because of a new law that is scheduled to go into effect this October. (HUD and EPA officials predict that final regulations will be published in October 1995, and will become effec-tive six months to one year later.) The Lead Based-paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (commonly called Title X or Title Ten) is the first federal law to cover private residential homes. Title X is misunderstood by many. The law does not require anyone to test for or remove lead paint. Instead, Congress hopes to achieve the same result by requiring people be informed through certain disclosures.
Title X will require owners of property built before 1978including co-opsto provide a lead hazard information pamphlet to prospective purchasers and tenants; disclose the presence of any known lead-based paint hazard on the property to a purchaser or tenant and provide a copy of anything in writing that exists; and permit the purchaser ten calendar days in which to conduct his own inspection for lead-based paint or a risk assessment.
Congress has put real teeth into this lawit imposes not only civil, but also criminal penalties. If a seller, landlord, or agent fails to comply, he or she is subject to treble damages, fines of up to $10,000 for each violation, and the possibility of imprisonment for up to one year. But don't worrya violation of this law will not void the contract for purchase and sale or lease.