While you may have heard of radon gas before, chances are you probably don’t know much about it. Basically, radon is a radioactive gas that is released from natural deposits of uranium in the ground. It can be released in the property from a number of sources (e.g. water from a well, natural stone fireplace, escaping from the ground itself and seeping through the foundation, etc.) and becomes harmful when it gets trapped inside a property that is kept sealed tight.
What can you do about it?
There are some states that actually require you to disclose the possibility of the presence of radon in your rental property. For example, in the state of Florida you must include the following disclosure in your lease or in a separate document acknowledged by your tenant(s): “RADON GAS: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Levels of radon that exceed federal and state guidelines have been found in buildings in Florida. Additional information regarding radon and radon testing may be obtained from your county health department.” If your state does not have specific disclosure guidelines to follow, you should at the very least provide your tenant(s) with a copy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s brochure A Radon Guide for Tenants.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1 in 15 homes in the United States have an elevated level of radon gas. So, regardless of your state’s specific disclosure requirements, you should consider taking the extra step of testing for radon gas and remedying any high levels you find. Again, you want to appear as accommodating and concerned for your tenants’ well being as possible if a legal situation comes up.
Testing for radon gas is actually very inexpensive. You can find EPA-approved testing kits at your local home improvement store for less than $20, or you can even order one from the National Safety Council for less than $10. You can visit their website at www.NSC.org/issues/radon for more information on radon and the testing kits they offer. And, if you actually find that your property has a high level of radon in it, repairs needed to fix the problem are generally a few hundred dollars to just a couple thousand. Obviously, much less than the cost of going to court over a radon health issue. In fact, some agencies offer assistance with the costs of making repairs to lower radon levels.
If you find that your property has high levels of radon gas, call the National Safety Council’s Radon Fit-It Program at 1-800-644-6999 and they can point you in the direction of state agencies that can help you, as well as certified contractors who can correctly handle radon issues.