Scooping up a 1,800-square-foot, 110-year-old house in a foreclosure sale for only $3,200 likely felt like a bit of a coup for a woman in Kalamazoo, Mich. last year. At least, that is, until the city sent her a letter saying it hadn’t done any testing for lead levels in the home. The homeowner has since won $115,000 to settle the case, after claiming that the city’s mistake led to elevated lead levels in her child.
According to MLive.com, the woman purchased the home from the city in August 2012. She had up to 30 days to conduct an environmental review of the property, but claims that the city didn’t give her the Environmental Protection Agency-approved form warning her of the potential of lead-based paint in the home.
Everything changed when the city realized it had possibly mucked things up.
“In January, city officials notified [the woman] and the purchasers of two other pre-1978 properties that it had failed to provide the required lead information at their closings,” a press release from the city said.
The owner says there was nothing about lead-based paint in the sales agreement, something the city should’ve disclosed under federal law, and filed a claim to that effect in March 2013.
The city acquired the home from the state of Michigan in 2007 due to tax foreclosure, but instead of pushing it through Kalamazoo’s rehabilitation and resale program, officials decided to sell it “as is” because it would probably have costed a lot of money to renovate.
Whether or not it would’ve cost more to renovate than the $115,000 it’s set to pay out now is unclear. As part of the settlement, Kalamazoo officials maintain that they didn’t know lead-based paint was in the house, but did admit to failing to hand over the required documents.
“We did not know there was lead-based paint on the property,” Kalamazoo City Attorney Clyde Robinson said after the city commission voted for the settlement. “We did no testing.”
There’s a lesson to be learned here — homeowners can’t always rely on city or state officials to hand over pertinent paperwork in such sales. Heck, they’re probably happy to just get the houses out of their hair. The system isn’t perfect, but if you know your home was built prior to 1978, make sure to request information regarding how to do a thorough environmental review of the premises.
For more on the federal law covering lead-paint disclosure, click here.