Have You Tested Your Home for Radon? 

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It’s a natural gas that occurs as radium in soil breaks down, and it can seep into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation, drains, and other openings. The Environmental Protection Agency says home radon levels should not exceed 4 picocuries per liter. Levels above 4 pCi/L should be professionally treated with a radon mitigation system. For less than $30, you can find radon test kits that detect whether radon is present in your home and, if so, whether its levels pose a threat to your health.

Radon Risk in Maryland

Generally, in areas where the soil has a higher concentration of radium, radon risk is elevated. But indoor radon concentration can vary considerably from one home to the next. In Maryland, anecdotal data shows that buildings west of Chesapeake Bay have higher concentrations of radon than buildings in eastern counties. However, the data can’t be reliably compared; the EPA says the data comes from multiple labs over an 11-year span, with no indicators about the testing methods used, whether the tests were conducted before or after mitigation, and where in a building the tests were conducted.

When to Test

People who are considering buying a home should request radon testing as part of the pre-sale inspection. If radon levels are dangerous, the seller and buyer can negotiate about who will pay for mitigation – a costly process that also requires ongoing monitoring. The EPA recommends testing for radon in the winter, when windows are typically closed, to get the most accurate results. Testing should be conducted in the lowest level of a building that is most often occupied (such as a living room or a basement family room), but not in kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry rooms, as dampness may skew the test results. Even when radon tests confirm the absence of radon, or a level of radon that is not harmful, it’s wise to test every two years, because the soil’s radon composition can change over time.

Radon Testing in Rental Properties

Tenants may wish to ask landlords whether they’ve tested for radon and, if so, when. If it’s been more than two years, landlords may be willing to reimburse tenants who buy a radon testing kit and test the property themselves. And if those kits detect harmful levels of radon, tenants should notify landlords immediately. Once aware of harmful radon levels, landlords must treat the problem as soon as possible. Failing to remediate a serious health risk can lead to legal trouble for landlords. Tenants can petition the court for a rent escrow action, in which tenants pay rent to the court and landlords receive no rent payments until they repair the safety hazard. Lusk Law, LLC, specializes in assisting landlords, helping to avoid litigation when possible, and actively representing our clients in court when litigation is necessary. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to landlords in Montgomery County, Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you have any questions about this topic.