So, you have old lead paint under layers of new paint in your apartment buildings? Legally, you must simply follow EPA rules and disclose the fact that this paint is there to your tenants and also provide them with detailed lists of the hazards of the existence of the paint and how to avoid them. However, this may not be enough to keep tenants around and fill vacant apartment units with new tenants. Lead is in the spotlight as a health hazard, and it is not only lead in the water that people fear. To keep your current tenants happy and fill those vacant units, you must show a commitment to protecting current tenants from the paint as much as you can, and it is best to remove that lead paint from empty units to gain new occupants.
Offer Current Tenants the Option of Lead Paint Encapsulation
Before you look into lead paint removal in your empty apartment units or entire buildings, it is important to make sure your current tenants know that you are keeping their health in mind, too. You likely have some current tenants who are worried about the lead paint and may even be planning to move when their lease is up. Unfortunately, lead paint removal does stir up lead dust and can be difficult to remove from a currently occupied unit without disrupting the tenant's life greatly.
However, what can be done on an occupied unit is lead paint encapsulation. To do this, a professional certified to work with lead paint will apply a special liquid polymer on the interior walls of the unit to minimize the safety hazards. This coating is very different from traditional paint that the lead paint is already covered with. The encapsulation liquid, when dry, keeps the paint underneath from chipping and producing dust.
Before anyone works with your lead paint to encapsulate it or remove it, you must request permission from your local department of health. This will slightly disrupt a tenant's life, since it is best to have encapsulation performed when they are not home and allow the polymer to dry before they return. However, tenants concerned about the lead paint hazards may welcome this slight disruption greatly, since it is being done to protect them.
Have Lead Paint Removed from Empty Apartment Units
While encapsulation can give your current tenants more peace-of-mind and reduce their chances of lead poisoning, it is best to have the paint completely removed when possible. You can have it removed from unoccupied units. To do this, a professional team certified in environmental demolition has three options: they can wet scrape or wire brush it by hand, use a dry sander that is equipped with a HEPA filter, or use a heat gun followed by wet hand sanding. All methods have their pros and cons, but the best method is the one that the company has the most experience performing.
They will also have to clean up the debris carefully, since they will contain the lead paint. It is very important to warn all current tenants in advance that this work will be performed and place appropriate "Hazard" signs around the areas being worked on. When you call your local health department and ask permission to encapsulate and remove lead paint, be sure to ask them about any additional local laws you must follow when having the paint removed. You must also stay away from the area when not wearing the proper safety equipment, so choose a company you can trust will perform the job correctly; you will not be able to pop in and out and check in on the job.
Lead paint in apartment units is not just something people ignore today. Many may have already vacated and more may be planning to move to a lead-free building when their current leases are up. Show current tenants you are committed to their health by having their paint encapsulated and get rid of the lead paint in empty units, so you can attract new occupants who may be looking for lead-free apartments.