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Radon in Residential Developments – Know Your Risk

Lenders and developers financing the development of residential homes, apartments, and condominiums in counties that are known to have high levels of radon should be aware of the risks involved with radon, and the potential liabilities involved with radon and radon mitigation systems.  Avoid potential lawsuits by understanding the local regulations and requirements before installing any radon remediation systems in new homes, and by testing working systems to ensure that they are functioning properly. 

Richmond American Homes, headquartered in Denver, develops homes in 12 states, some in areas of high radon.  The company was sued last year by hundreds of homeowners in Jefferson County, West Virginia for failure to properly install passive radon removal systems in homes as required by local building code since the county was located in an area of high radon.  It turns out the contractor did not install the radon system at all in some cases, and had placed “radon” stickers on pipes that were actually for plumbing purposes. 

Radon is the second leading cause of cancer next to smoking, and according to the EPA over 20,000 Americans are killed each year by radon.  The effects of radon increase if individuals are smokers.  Passive or active radon protection systems can be installed at properties to reduce the risks associated with radon.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated three separate Radon Zones based on low, moderate, and high levels of radon typically found.  Counties are determined to be in Radon Zone 1, 2, or 3.  Zone 1 is the highest, where radon levels regularly exceed 4.0 pico curies per liter, the level that is determined to be harmful to human health.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require testing residential properties for radon in any counties that are located in Zone 1.  Even though high levels of radon are mostly found in Zone 1, the EPA recommends that all residences are tested for radon, since elevated levels of radon can occur in Zone 2 and 3 counties as well.

Radon testing is relatively cheap and it is usually possible to complete the whole process within one week.  Radon testing should be conducted at any property where high levels of radon are found.