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Understanding the Massachusetts Lead Law

If you are buying or selling a home in Massachusetts, you need to understand the Commonwealth’s Lead Law and how it does or doesn’t affect you. Simply put, the law stipulates that a new owner of a home built before 1978 in which a child under six will live or continue to live must have it either de-leaded or brought under interim control within 90 days of taking title. That is the mandate that drives all related aspects of the law. Now let’s deconstruct it into its salient points to answer the obvious questions you may have.

First, let’s address the simplest clause in the law – homes built BEFORE 1978. If the home you are buying or selling was built AFTER 1978, you are in the clear and do not need to worry about the law.

Next, let’s talk about the responsibilities of the buyer vs. the seller. The only obligation the seller has with respect to the Mass. Lead Law is to disclose to all potential buyers whether or not they are aware of the presence of lead paint and whether or not they have any documents relating to it. The vast majority of sellers have never had the home tested for lead and have no idea whether or not there is lead present. And furthermore, the law does not mandate that they DO know. Their disclosure can simply be, “I don’t know”.   The onus is on the BUYER to have the property tested if (s)he feels it is necessary. If there will not be a child under the age of six living there, then the buyer may not care and may opt to forgo testing.

If there WILL be a child under the age of six living in the home, the buyer MUST have the property tested at their own expense, and if lead is discovered, the buyer must plan remediation within 90 days of taking title. The remediation is also at their own expense. The seller has no obligation to de-lead the property on behalf of the buyer.

If the buyer is purchasing the home with plans to rent it, they would be wise to assume in advance that it could be rented by someone with a child under the age of six, and go through at least the testing process immediately. It is illegal at both the state and federal levels to refuse to rent to someone because they have a child under the age of six. If the buyer winds up with such a tenant, the lead will need to be remediated.

If the buyer is planning on using the home as a VACATION rental – as is the case with so many of our properties here on Cape Cod – then the law is slightly different. If you plan to rent your home for 31 days or less, and as long as there is not chipping or peeling paint present, you may be exempt from the law. But a special notification will still need to be presented to the tenant(s).

There are many other nuances to the law. For the most authoritative information, please visit the state’s Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification.