Responsibility for Radon in Rental Housing
How to test for and address radon problems in your rental properties.
Marcia Stewart on Nolo.com (click for full article)
a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is associated with
lung cancer, is found in rental properties throughout the U.S.
To meet the responsibility to provide tenants habitable rentals,
landlords must address radon problems that occur in rental properties.
Because the gas is invisible and odorless, however, its
not always easy to know if radon is present, unlike other environmental
and health hazards, such as mold and bedbugs.
Liability for Radon Problems
significant radon presence will make your rental property "uninhabitable,"
and your tenants will have many legal ways to respond, such
as withholding rent, moving out, or suing you. See the Nolo
article Tenant Options if Your Landlord Wont Make Major
Repairs for advice on the subject.
a few states have specific laws regarding landlord radon disclosures
or tenant education. These include Florida (Fla. Stat. Ann.
§404.056) and Illinois (under the Illinois Radon Awareness
Act, 420 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 46/15. 46/25). Regardless
of your state law requirements, if you own rental property in
an area known to have radon problems (see the EPA Map of Radon
Zones for details), but dont test, warn tenants, or take
action, you could be sued for harm that tenants suffer as a
This opens up a can of worms! Over one-third of all housing
units in this country are rental units. Most of these are either
single family houses or apartments located below the third floor
of a building. In most states, owners are required generally
to keep their properties "habitable" - safe and fit for people
to live in. Fixing a radon problem usually involves repairs
to the building. Therefore, it is the building owner - and not
the tenant - who is authorized to have this work done. Property
owners may simply not choose to test their buildings since they
percieve the work to be costly and since even the awareness
of a high level reading might require them to
do the repairs or at least disclose that information to the
tenant or perspective buyers. It is unclear what the legal ramifications
of testing or not testing will be. See the Solution section
for things tenants can do to deal with these problems.
Guide for Tenants
To really understand the radon issues involved in renting, read
and print this booklet by the Environmental Protection Agency:
Radon Guide for Tenants. Tenants should do their own testing
and not wait for the property owner to get around to it. If
the results are above 4 pCi/L they should show the results to
the property owner and request mitigation measures. Given the
severity of the problem, and as pressure mounts, property owner
associations will hopefully provide their members with guidelines
for mitigating apartment buildings and residential rental properties.
However tenants will have to be proactive here. Because of the
costs of testing, mitigation and possible litigation, some property
owners may have been hoping the issue would remain as hidden
as the radon itself: "invisible, odorless and tasteless".
in Rental Housing
Environmental Law Institute
in Rental Housing: Legal and Policy Strategies for Reducing
Initiatives targeted at reducing exposure to high radon levels
in rental housing
Air Quality in Rental Dwellings:
State Laws Addressing Radon
may be available to reduce high radon levels in rental housing.
There are some federal programs that might be used to help fund
radon reduction in homes that are affordable to limited income
families. These programs generally give money to local agencies
or groups, which then fund the work. Some examples are:
Development Block Grant (CDBG) program - funds rehabilitation
and repair of affordable housing. For more information, call
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at
Office of Multifamily Development Radon Policy mortgagee letter
program - funds rehabilitation and repair of single family homes.
For more information, call HUD at (202) 708-2121.
Environmental Justice Grants - funds community-based organizations
and tribal governments addressing environmental concerns of
people of color and low income communities. For more information,
call EPA's Office of Environmental Justice at (800) 962-6215.
has a good page on getting financial assistance to reduce radon
in your home
including a state funded program for low-income families.