By Stephen Ryan, Esq.
MAR General Counsel
While the Massachusetts Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification and Certification Form has been around for years, it is surprising how many experienced and well-meaning agents make mistakes in completing this form.
Mistakes may be simple, honest errors,but the consequences can be expensive: under federal law, sellers and real estate agents who fail to meet the requirements for compliance can face a civil penalty of $1,000 under state law and $10,000 under federal law per violation. In fact, there have been instances where personnel from HUD and the EPA have conducted audits of brokers’ files and found them to be lacking in terms of compliance requirements.
Following are a few helpful tips for completing the form to avoid problems down the road.
When you get the listing, get the lead form signed, too. Arguably the easiest and best time to get the lead paint form completed by the seller is when they are signing the listing agreement. No broker should consider a file to be complete on a transaction for a home built before 1978 unless it has the Property Transfer Form completed and signed by the seller. Virtually all MLSs in Massachusetts now allow participants to upload documents when the new listing is placed in the MLS. This makes the completed form accessible to all MLS members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Initial where it says, “Initials,” and Check… One of the things that the field staff from the federal government looks for in the “in-office” audits of a firm’s closed transactions is compliance with the specifics of the form. This means that sellers “check” the boxes that are applicable to them and buyers and agents initial the sections applicable to them. It also means if lead inspections are done on the property, they are attached as well. Remember— failure on these simple issues can cost the firm thousands.
The agent must inform the buyer and seller of their obligations under the lead paint law. The form also requires brokers to tell sellers of their obligations for disclosure and notification and verbally inform buyers of their obligations to bring a property into compliance if a child under the age of six resides there. The agent working with the seller is expected to inform the seller and sign the form for that purpose; the agent working with the buyer, and thus verbally informing them of their responsibilities, must sign for that purpose. If one agent does both jobs (sells their own listing without a co-broker), then only the one agent’s signature would be correct.
Don’t forget the address. You would be surprised how many agents forget to do this!
That’s it. Compliance with the requirements of the lead paint form may not be particularly time consuming, but the consequences for not completing these steps can be. For more information on Massachusetts lead paint law, go to marealtor.com and click on the legal section. You will need your NRDS number to access all documents in our members-only area.
The Legal Hotline is available to designated REALTORS® weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 800-370-5342.