Q: My boyfriend and his two children rent a home in Minneapolis. I encouraged him to do an at-home radon gas test, which came back at levels over 6 pCi/L. He then ran a second test, which came back at over 7 pCi/L. The Environmental Protection Agency website indicates homes should be fixed if there is a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more. My boyfriend shared this information with his landlord. The landlord claimed he’d never heard about radon and would have to look into it. My concern is that his landlord won’t take the problem seriously and won’t take action to reduce the levels of radon in the home.
What action, if any, is required once a rental property is determined to have high levels of radon?
A: The Minnesota Radon Awareness Act states that before signing an agreement to sell or transfer residential real property, the seller must disclose in writing to the buyer any knowledge the seller has of radon concentrations in the dwelling. Therefore, your boyfriend should let the owner of his rental home know that the existence and levels of radon will most likely be found in his purchase agreement if the seller had any knowledge that radon was in the home.
If the seller had knowledge of the presence of radon, and failed to disclose it to the buyer who is your boyfriend’s landlord, then the seller may be held accountable by your boyfriend’s landlord for the radon-mitigation expense.
If the existence of radon was not mentioned in the purchase agreement, and the seller had no knowledge of radon gas being present in the home, then the seller had no duty to inform the buyer of the radon’s existence.
The Minnesota Department of Health strongly recommends, but doesn’t require, that all home buyers have an indoor radon test performed before buying or taking occupancy. The Department of Health recommends that measures be taken to permanently reduce radon concentrations if elevated levels of radon are found. Elevated radon concentrations can easily be reduced by a qualified, certified or licensed radon mitigator. The Department of Health and the Minnesota Radon Awareness Act do not require radon testing or radon mitigation if discovered. However, many relocation companies and lending institutions, as well as home buyers, require a radon test when purchasing a house. The law recommends that an owner seek to reduce the radon level, but doesn’t require owners or landlords to remove the radon. Once an owner knows of the existence of radon, Minnesota law requires the owner to disclose the radon information to any potential buyer. If the seller wasn’t aware of any radon gas being present when he sold the home to your boyfriend’s landlord, then the landlord is responsible for reducing the radon level if he sees fit to do so. Your boyfriend should write his landlord a letter stating there is radon gas in the home and request that his landlord contact a qualified radon mitigator to reduce the radon within 14 days. Landlords aren’t required by law to mitigate radon, but your boyfriend’s landlord may agree to hire someone in order to keep a good tenant. If the radon levels aren’t reduced within 14 days, your boyfriend can file a rent-escrow action in the county where he lives. I’m not sure how a court will rule, since your boyfriend’s landlord isn’t required under Minnesota law to remove or reduce the radon. However, radon is a health concern, and your boyfriend has children living in the home, so if he wants to pursue it, he should attach the test results to his affidavit.
Another option for your boyfriend is to cover the mitigation expense himself, or work out an agreement under which he and his landlord share in the expense.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to email@example.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.