If you’re a commercial real estate owner of multifamily housing — which is a multifamily building that has 5 or more units — this radon article is designed to help you understand the new testing requirements set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to minimize the risk of radon exposure for you and your tenants. (These multi-unit dwellings are defined as detached, semi-detached, row, walkup, or elevator‐type rental or cooperative housing with kitchens and baths.)
We’ll discuss radon in-depth, FAQ style, so you can better understand this environmental hazard and learn how to get HUD Radon surveys to ensure you’re in compliance with federal regulations.
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that’s in our atmosphere in trace amounts. It is found in every state in the United States, most particularly in-ground soil and rocks that are naturally rich in uranium-containing minerals. In the outdoors, the gas disperses quickly, without causing any safety concerns. However, when it seeps into buildings through cracks in the foundation, in the basement, and other areas, it can reach dangerous levels inside enclosed spaces.
Since radon is an invisible and odorless gas, it’s hard to detect. So, commercial property owners of multifamily dwellings and tenants can become exposed to radon for an extended period of time without knowing it. Long-term exposure to radon has been proven to cause lung cancer.
In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US, causing more than 20,000 deaths a year.
What is Fiction vs. Fact when it comes to radon?
Fiction: Radon can get into the building only if you have a basement.
Fact: Radon can still get into buildings even without a basement. The difference in pressure between the outside and inside of your home can cause radon to come in through cracks in the building.
Fiction: It is a legal requirement to get your home tested for radon in California.
Fact: While it’s not a requirement, both the State of California and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highly recommend getting radon testing.
Fiction: Radon only affects smokers in homes where the gas is present, not non-smokers.
Fact: Radon affect everybody, smokers and non-smokers alike.
Fiction: Radon testing is expensive, difficult, and time-consuming.
Fact: Testing for radon is more affordable than you think, and it can be done without disturbing the home. You can actually get radon testing kits or hire a professional radon testing consultant.
Fiction: Apartments and condos that have radon can’t be fixed.
Fact: Actually, there are a variety of solutions available for fixing radon problems. And, they range from affordable to more expensive depending on the size of the problem.
Fiction: Radon only affects a certain type of multifamily units.
Fact: All types of multifamily housing—old and new, insulated and drafty, ones with basements and without—can be affected by radon. The amount of radon found can be affected by how the building is built, and the materials used.
Fiction: It’s hard to sell multifamily property in California that have radon problems.
Fact: When a building that has elevated levels of radon has been fixed, the sale of that home typically isn’t a problem. In fact, resolving the radon issue may be a very good selling point because it provides buyers with peace of mind.
As a Landlord, how do I get my multifamily properties tested for radon?
You can hire a certified radon testing company – If you want to have your tests done by a professional radon consultant, we recommend using an environmental firm that does testing only, so you’re ensured accurate, non-biased results. According to the HUD radon policy, a Radon professional is to supervise the testing.
For example, at Adviro, we do just that—testing only—so you can have peace of mind knowing your results are good to go. We use an independent 3rd party to conduct the radon analysis. We then create the reports, complete with recommendations and referrals, based on the findings for your home.
If you need to test your environment for radon and live anywhere in California, feel free to contact us for a consultation today.
How do you choose the units to test?
The Radon Professional will supervise the testing in accordance with the AARST‐ANSI Standard with the exception that at least 25% of randomly selected ground level units shall be tested. The professional will identify the ground level units to be tested, and then use accepted processes for random selection of the units to be tested. Additionally 10% of the upper floors must be tested.
Do I have to notify the tenants?
Yes. The notifications should be done in a timely fashion so that all participants will be aware of their responsibilities during testing.
Types of Radon Testing
There are two main types of radon testing methods:
Short-term tests – These tests remain in your apartments from 2 to 90 days, depending on the device.
Long-term tests – These tests stay in your apartments for more than 90 days, which may help tell you what the average radon level is year-round. Radon levels vary with the season, with winter months often indicating the highest levels.
Radon tests are classified as passive and continuous:
Passive tests – commonly include charcoal canisters, liquid scintillation devices, electret ion chambers, and alpha track (long term) detectors.
Continuous tests – monitors are operated by an electric source and must record and track hourly measurements as well as calculate the average radon during the test period. Some continuous monitors also record other variables such as temperature, barometric pressure,
humidity, and tamper indications.
Because of cost considerations, passive devices are usually used for larger multifamily test courses. There are situations where a radon professional may suggest the use of a continuous monitor to help evaluate an unusual radon entry pattern or to evaluate weather patterns during the test.
Why is it beneficial to get radon tests from a firm that does testing only?
The main reason to have your radon tests conducted by an environmental company that does radon testing only is because it keeps the results non-biased. For instance, at Adviro, we are strictly a third-party testing company—we do not do remediation, abatement or mitigation services. We only focus on whether there is a hazard or not.
If there is a need for mitigation, you should review the situation with a licensed radon mitigation company and certified expert. Each property is unique, and a mitigation company will be able to use various techniques to mitigate the gas and improve the indoor air quality.
Helpful tips to address radon issues in your multifamily rental buildings.
In the time before you work with a radon contractor, you can take advantage of some temporary solutions that will help lower the radon gas levels inside your apartment buildings or condos:
- Open the windows to increase circulation
- Use fans to circulate the air more efficiently
- Sealing any obvious cracks in the windows and floors where the air is seeping in.
What are my responsibilities as a multifamily building Purchaser/owner?
- Ensure the radon contractors hired meet the required qualifications of certified and, if state regulated, licensed;
- Supply necessary paperwork to enable radon contractors to direct sampling and mitigation such as floor plans, HVAC drawings, add‐ons, and the like
- Collaborate with contractors to ensure proper tenant notification
- Facilitate tenant education on the testing and mitigation process and familiarization with the measurement devices and mitigation system
- Authorize and enable entry to the necessary units
- Serve as liaison between tenants, property managers and contractors
What is my liability as a landlord for radon problems?
If your multifamily rental property has a significant amount of radon present, it may be legally deemed “uninhabitable.” In this situation, your tenants can take many types of actions against you, such as withholding rent, moving out, or suing you.
Am I required to disclose radon in my state?
Currently, only a few states require landlord radon disclosures (such as Florida and Illinois). However, regardless of what your state law requires, if you own rental property in an area known to have radon problems (see the EPA Map of Radon Zones), but don’t test, warn tenants, or take action, you could be sued for harm that tenants suffer as a result.
What can a multi-unit building owner do about radon problems?
As a rental property owner, you are responsible for keeping your properties in a safe and fit codition for your tenants. Here are several steps you can take to address the problem of high radon levels:
- You can make repairs to the building. The right system depends on the design of the building and other factors. State radon offices or the Radon Fix It Line (1-800-644-6999) can provide general information on methods for reducing radon. Also, the EPA’s Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction is a quick and easy way to learn more about the different ways to fix radon problems.
- Radon reduction costs between $500 and $2,500 for a single-family home. For a larger building, the costs will depend on the size and other characteristics of the building.
- Radon reduction work generally requires a trained professional. To find out which radon reduction system is right for a building, and how much those repairs will cost, building owners should consult with a professional radon contractor.
- Many states have programs set up to train or certify radon professionals. Your state radon office can provide a list of individuals who have completed state or national programs. Or, you can call the Radon Fix It Line for free publications, referrals or how to find a “qualified” radon service professional
“Testing is the only way to detect radon.”
Need a HUD Radon survey for your multifamily building?
Feel free to contact our Adviro radon consultant. We’ll be happy to set up an appointment to help you with your commercial real estate properties.