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Radon and Rentals

Landlord Responsibility for Radon in Rental Housing
How to test for and address radon problems in your rental properties.
By Marcia Stewart on Nolo.com (click for full article)

Radon, 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, it’s not always easy to know if radon is present, unlike other environmental and health hazards, such as mold and bedbugs.

Landlord Liability for Radon Problems

A 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 Won’t Make Major Repairs for advice on the subject.

Only 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 don’t test, warn tenants, or take action, you could be sued for harm that tenants suffer as a result.


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.

Radon Guide for Tenants
To really understand the radon issues involved in renting, read and print this booklet by the Environmental Protection Agency: A 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".

Radon in Rental Housing

Environmental Law Institute

Radon in Rental Housing: Legal and Policy Strategies for Reducing Health Risks
Initiatives targeted at reducing exposure to high radon levels in rental housing

Indoor Air Quality in Rental Dwellings:
State Laws Addressing Radon

Funds 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:

Community 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 (202) 708-3587.

HUD Radon page.

HUD Office of Multifamily Development Radon Policy mortgagee letter

"203k" 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.

Colorado has a good page on getting financial assistance to reduce radon in your home
including a state funded program for low-income families.