Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Radon in Illinois Real Estate

At today's office meeting we had a discussion of the new radon disclosure forms that all home sellers will have to fill out.

It is a joke. All that is required is that you must disclose if you have ever had the home tested, and if so, what the results were. And how would anyone ever be caught if they lied?

It is almost exactly the same verbage as on the lead paint disclosure form. So to avoid disclosing the presence of lead or radon in your home all you have to do is remain ignorant. Or lie.

How useful.

This is a clear moral hazard. Its main result is to encourage people to be ignorant of possible environmental dangers in their home, or to lose a lot of money on their home sales.

Now, lead paint is not such a problem, though it is a considerably worse pollutant than radon. Lead is easy to avoid. In Real Estate we simply assume that any home older than 1978 does have lead-based paint. Homes newer than 1978 may still have it, but the odds are a lot lower, as that was the year it became illegal to use. Builders probably continued to use it until their stocks were gone, and some painters actually added lead to paint, but generally speaking, new homes are very unlikely to be contaminated with lead.

Not so with Radon. It is impossible to predict which homes may have it, and testing for radon is problematical at best. The tests can be undermined by the homeowner simply opening basement windows or running a fan which disperses the radon.

I don't worry about radon, the 'harm' it causes is hardly established fact, but mostly speculation. Speculation based on scientific reasoning, but speculation none the less. What makes me angry is that people are being encouraged by the state to either lie, cheat, or to remain ignorant.

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