This case involves a couple who purchased a house from a realtor. The couple’s offer of sale was contingent on their getting a HUD loan. The loan approval process included an appraisal and inspection of the house. The appraisal form included an order to remove all the chipped and peeling paint on the garage and home exterior before the closing. The realtor had the home painted and the couple later bought the house. Three months later, the couple’s 4-year-old son began to experience increased lead levels, allegedly from consuming paint chips or inhaling paint dust around the house. The couple took their son to a doctor for blood tests and the tests revealed that his lead levels had continued to rise steadily and his lead levels peaked about seven months after they bought the house. The couple brought a lawsuit against the realtor for negligence in failing to notify them about the hazard created by the lead-based paint in the house.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Does a realtor have a duty to warn a buyer before a closing if lead-based paint is used on a house?
Expert Witness Response
In 1978, the Consumer Products Safety Commission placed restrictions on the lead content of residential paint and coatings. Even though these restrictions are heavily enforced, millions of houses still contain old lead-based paint, either in an undercoat or in the most current coat of paint. Typically, lead-based paint it is found on kitchen and bathroom walls, doors, and on the wooden trim of houses built before 1950. Children are at the greatest danger from lead poisoning when the paint itself or the underlying surface has begun to deteriorate and when the paint, although intact, is located on surfaces that kids can easily come into contact with. Many cases of lead poisoning in children result from kids being exposed to lead dust released during home renovation or remodeling. In general, a real estate broker who sells a house with lead-based paint may be held liable for negligence if a child gets lead poisoning if the broker made representations about the suitability of the house and the parents relied on the broker’s representations in deciding to purchase the house. Recently, many states have enacted laws requiring written point-of-transfer disclosures by a real estate broker about the condition of known defects on a property, including lead-based paint. The real estate broker in this case probably violated their duty of disclosure to the homeowner because they should have revealed all the information in their possession about the lead-based paint in the house and the lead-based paint hazards to their son before the contract for purchase was signed.