Radon is the cause of about 20,000 lung-cancer deaths in the country each year, and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Pennsylvania.
According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a home in the Center Valley area of Lehigh County recently tested at a radon level of 3,715 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), the highest known test result in Pennsylvania. That’s over 900 times the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency recommends remediation (4 pCi/L). Other test results in the area have been well over 1000 pCi/L, though local inspectors and mitigation professionals say they don’t normally see these sorts of crazy-high readings in that area.
It’s just another reminder about why Realtors® shouldn’t take any shortcuts when working through the inspection contingencies of the Agreement of Sale. Let’s review a few things that could keep agents out of trouble on both sides of the transaction.
- Don’t minimize the importance of radon. Have you ever known an agent to say something like, “A lot of houses in this neighborhood have radon systems, so unless you need help paying for it, or you’re willing to let it hold up the deal, just budget for a system and remediate after you move in.” This might sound rational at the time, but the buyer who later receives a high test result probably won’t remember anything more than “My agent told me to not bother testing.”
- Initials are your friend. Prior versions of the Agreement had checkboxes for buyers to signify when they waived or elected inspections. More recent versions contain initial lines instead. Nothing can completely inoculate brokers and agents against possible lawsuits, but initials make it that much harder for a buyer to say, “I didn’t know I was waiving that inspection” or “Someone else must have made that mark.”
- Make sure sellers understand their role. Homeowners will likely get some sort of guidance for facilitating a test, such as don’t leave doors and windows open, don’t use attic fans, etc. As a listing broker, be sure sellers understand the importance of following those instructions. If the seller does something to affect the quality of the test, it could cause serious problems later on.
- Remember the Seller Disclosure. Sellers are asked to disclose their knowledge of prior tests and their results. This could include tests by other potential buyers. When Buyer #2 sues the Seller for not disclosing a high test result from Buyer #1, a court probably won’t react kindly when the Seller says, “I chose to not get the report so I wouldn’t have to disclose anything about it.”