Why are so few owners and lenders concerned?
QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTION #1: ‘It’s Never Going to Affect Me’ Syndrome
You can’t hide from radon, or from the awareness movement starting to take shape. Although radon has always existed, we as a society are just now starting to realize its threat and take action to prevent it. And for good reason. According to the EPA, 12% of lung cancers annually – that’s 21,000 deaths per year in the U.S. – are attributed to radon.
Awareness is growing:
- The EPA has declared the month of January as National Radon Awareness Action Month.
- Lawsuits are starting to be filed by tenants against their landlords (more on that below).
- Ohio and Illinois have adopted some fairly stringent radon testing requirements in multifamily and commercial buildings.
- Ohio uses the AARST MAMF protocol when testing for radon in multifamily or commercial properties.
- Illinois has required 100% of ground floor testing in multifamily and commercial properties for some time. This testing requirement is similar to the AARST protocol but does not require the testing of 10% of upper floor units.
- In both states, technicians are required to follow the state mandated protocol or run the risk of loss of license or even fines/penalties.
- Iowa, New Jersey, and Minnesota are starting to discuss the adoption of testing requirements similar to Ohio and Illinois.
- Freddie Mac and HUD have both adopted Radon into their Scopes of Work in recent years, and many lenders are starting to require testing for hotels in which guests stay for extended periods of time.
It is expected that with growing public awareness and concern, more states will issue regulations, and scopes of work will increasingly be revised to include radon testing.
QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTION #2: There are NO Regulations that I Have to Comply With
In recent years, various states and organizations have pioneered radon awareness and testing. In 2013, the EPA released the Federal Radon Action Plan, a document that “aimed to reach 860,000 homes, schools and daycare facilities in 2013.” As of January 1, 2014, daycare facilities in Illinois are required to test for radon every three years. Ohio has also published radon sampling requirements. An increasing number of states are requiring the installation of radon mitigation systems for new residential construction.
Lenders have begun to follow suit. Freddie Mac and HUD have heavily adopted radon into their Scopes of Work for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments. HUD is currently in the process of adding radon sampling and mitigation requirements to their single-family programs, with potential additions to their senior housing programs in the future. HUD’s acceptance of radon as a genuine concern has also led to the development of a true National Radon Proficiency Program, the first iteration of which will be issued in January of 2015.
QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTION #3: The Liability is Less Than the Cost to Address the Issue
With so much involved in managing the day-to-day operations and maintenance of a property, it may be tempting to try saving cost and time by pushing radon aside. You should take caution! When you consider the potential damage to your company image from bad press, bad deals, or lawsuits, the cost of ignoring radon can be much greater than the cost of addressing it upfront.
- Your tenants get sick
So how much radon is harmful?
The risk of becoming sick from radon exposure is based on how much radon is in the building, how much time is spent in the building, and whether or not there is smoking in or around the building. If the radon level in your property is 4 pCi/L or above, the property is putting your occupants in great danger. According to the EPA, an acceptably safe amount of radon in a property is between 0 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
- Your tenants report you
- Your deal gets delayed
SOUND ASSUMPTION: I Should Take Action Against Radon Now
- Get your property tested every few years
If radon is identified in the first three levels, then testing will be conducted on the higher levels to see how far the radon has infiltrated the property.
Since the shifting of the earth’s crust can open new pathways for radon to infiltrate a property, the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST) recommends getting a test done every two years if a radon mitigation system has already been installed, and every five years if previous testing has resulted in low levels of radon.
- Install a radon mitigation system
HOW CAN EMG HELP?
EMG team members recently attended a symposium held by the AARST, where speakers from the American Lung Association and various state health departments made it clear that they are working to raise radon awareness, and are partnering with multiple other non-governmental organizations to make radon more visible to the public.
We work closely with a nationwide network of radon technicians that handle the bulk of the radon testing we complete. We have years of experience successfully working within lender scopes like Freddie Mac, and we were on the forefront of the new HUD radon requirements issued under HUD-ML-2013-07.
EMG can help you protect your tenants and your business deals by addressing radon before it becomes an issue.
For more information about radon and radon testing, contact Justin Arias, Director of Environmental Technical Operations at EMG.