If you are considering purchasing a property for rent, avoiding potential lawsuits from future tenants should be one of your main concerns. One of the best ways to avoid liability is to make sure that you do everything you can to learn about, repair, and warn tenants of potential risks. With your typical home inspection, you should also pay for additional testing to make sure that your home is hazard free.

Why should you pay for bad news?

While liability laws vary from state to state, landlords are often responsible to warn tenants of potential dangers. If you do not test for the dangers and tenants do, it can be your obligation to fix the issue for the tenants or face legal action. For example, if you avoid testing for lead and your tenant moves in and discovers lead, they can ask you to fix it or allow them to break the lease. You now have lost money either way—via repairs or lost tenant income.

If you test beforehand, you can tell tenants about the issue ahead of time, and they can move in knowing the risks of renting that property. You then avoid the cost of both lost rent and abatement. In some states, the requirements of owners are much more strict; testing is required and lead affected properties must be registered.

Which hazards should you test for?

Given the example above, lead is a number one concern for many tenants, especially tenants with children. Lead testing should include paint, plumbing, and soil tests. Keep in mind that just because a property tests positive for lead, it does not mean that abatement is needed. Lead plumbing should be replaced without question. But lead paint is often covered over with many coats of oil-based or latex paint.

Lead paint is only a concern if it is peeling or if you will be cutting through it to form a powder than could be inhaled. If lead paint is intact and well sealed by other paint types, you can warn your tenants and leave it alone. Lead is often sometimes found in old tiles; tiled countertops were common in bathrooms and kitchens. If the tile is original to the house, have it tested as well.

Other tests that are useful for avoiding liability issues with tenants include testing for mold and radon gas. Mold can can respiratory problems for tenants, especially those who have allergies or asthma. If you know about mildew or trouble spots, paying for an air quality test can help protect you against lawsuits if a tenant files a personal injury claim citing mold as the cause. If you can provide an air quality test that shows the house to be in normal, healthy ranges, despite some visible areas of mildew, you show you did your due diligence as a property owner and it would be hard for the plaintiff to prove negligence. 

Radon can be found basements and is a particular problem in the Midwest. Its radioactive nature can lead to many health concerns, with lung cancer being one of the most prominent. While only a few states have laws regarding radon testing for landlords, if the radon level is high enough in your rental, it can still be declared uninhabitable, and the tenant is than able to sue or withhold rent until the problem is fixed. Having the test results can help you avoid this nuisance by alerting you of the need for better sealing and giving you the ability to disclose the potential risks. Some courts may find that avoiding the test is negligent in and of itself, especially if radon is a known concern for homes in the area. 

For more information or assistance, contact services that specialize in lead testing.