Lead Paint in Rental Homes

You can't be absolutely sure whether your rental home contains lead paint unless the paint is tested. You should ask the landlord if the paint has ever been tested for lead. If it has, ask to see the results. However, landlords in New York State are not required to test paint for lead, nor are they required to allow a prospective tenant to test paint for lead before renting. A federal regulation now requires landlords of "target housing" (most housing built before 1978)12 to disclose any known lead paint hazards to prospective tenants. This regulation also requires that prospective tenants be given a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet about residential lead poisoning hazards. It does not require landlords to undertake any new investigations or assessments to find out whether their rental dwellings contain lead paint or any lead paint hazards. Therefore, if you want to find out whether your rental home contains any lead paint, you may have to have it tested yourself.

Beginning August 30, 1999, individuals and firms conducting lead paint hazard inspections or risk assessments in New York State must hold EPA certification to perform such work.13 Having an entire house or apartment tested is best, but it will be costly. HUD has estimated that, nationally, the cost of professionally testing the interior of an entire 2-bedroom, 900-square-foot apartment using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer starts at under $300.14 Testing costs may increase as the size of the apartment increases and if exterior paint must also be tested. The XRF testing method can be used without damaging or disturbing the painted surfaces tested. Other methods, such as collecting paint samples for testing or using do-it-yourself kits, can damage painted surfaces, and your landlord may therefore object to their use. Samples of lead paint must be tested by an independent laboratory and this will cost between $20 and $65 per sample; having a technician come to do the sampling costs extra. If you collect the paint samples yourself, ask the lab how to sample the paint properly. See page 12 to obtain a list of testing labs that are certified by New York State to test paint for lead. There are also do-it-yourself lead paint testing kits that are much less expensive, but they cannot detect lead beneath newer layers of unleaded paint without first scraping through the surface paint layers. Such kits may also be far less sensitive than other methods,15 and the EPA does not recommend their use.16

Even if the paint isn't tested, you can use the following guidelines to make an educated guess about whether a rental house or apartment might have lead paint. If the building was built after 1978, it probably doesn't contain lead paint. If it was built between 1960 and 1978, it may have some lead paint. If it was built between 1940 and 1959, it probably contains lead paint, and if it was built before 1940 it almost certainly contains lead paint.17 Lead paint produced before about the 1940's usually had much higher concentrations of lead than the lead paint produced later. So, the older the housing is, the more likely it is that it contains lead paint, and the higher the lead concentration in the paint is likely to be.