VA Loans and Lead Paint: What You Need to Know

Lead-based paint can raise the hackles of any buyer. And for good reason. The ingestion of lead-based paint chips or dust has been linked to nervous system damage, kidney damage, and reproductive problems.

Lead-based paint can also pose financing hazards to a potential VA loan borrower. The VA requires that loose lead-based paint be treated and removed before a VA loan can move toward approval. Let’s take a closer look at the VA’s 5-step process for addressing lead-based paint.

VA Loans and Lead Paint Rules and Regulations

Lead-based paint is dislodged as chips and dust, and can be harmful if ingested.

Step 1: VA loans and lead paint: What is the rule?

While vague on some property guidelines, the VA offers clear-cut rules regarding lead-based paint:

“Lead-based paint constitutes an immediate hazard that must be corrected, unless testing shows that lead is not present in the paint at a level above that permitted by law.”

Step 2: The VA appraiser checks for “defective paint conditions”

The VA appraiser is required to look for “defective paint conditions” (cracking, scaling, chipping, peeling or loose paint) that suggest the presence of lead-based paint. Any such problems are photographed and documented on the appraiser’s report.

Step 3: The VA appraiser makes recommendations

When dealing with defective paint conditions, the date of a property makes an enormous difference. Homes built before 1978 are much more likely to contain lead-based paint and are held to a more rigid standard by the VA.

The VA requires that appraisers “assume that a defective paint condition…of properties built prior to 1978 involves lead-based paint.” If defective paint is discovered on a pre-1978 home, appraisers must recommend on the appraisal report that corrective action be taken.

Chipping Paint that's Lead-Based for Old Surface

Pre-1978 surfaces covered with chipping paint must be scraped and repainted, unless testing can prove the paint is not lead-based.

Step 4: Corrective action is required

Defective paint conditions including peeling paint must be corrected.

It’s important to note that the appraiser is not responsible for testing or confirming the presence of lead-based paint. The appraiser’s duty is simply to report a defective paint condition. The testing is a separate process, and is usually done by a certified lead-based paint professional.

Unless professional testing proves that the paint is not lead-based, the VA will require one of the following treatments:

“The surface requiring treatment must be thoroughly washed, scraped, wirebrushed or otherwise cleaned to remove all cracking, scaling, peeling, chipping and loose paint and then repainted with two coats of a suitable nonleaded paint, or:

“The paint shall be completely removed or the surface covered with a suitable material such as gypsum wallboard, plywood or plaster before any painting is undertaken if the paint film integrity of the surface needing treatment cannot be maintained.”

Should the seller agree to make the recommended repairs, the transaction moves along to Step 5:

Step 5: The compliance inspection

Once repairs have been completed, the VA will send an appraiser to do a “compliance inspection.” The VA appraiser will ensure that the defective paint has been properly treated and that the property now meets the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements.

Lead-Based Paint Can Be Treated for Homeowners

When properly treated, lead-based paint poses minimal risk to homeowners.

Should You Avoid Pre-1978 Homes?

Lead-based paint can be effectively treated and/or removed. But some homeowners (particularly those with young children) prefer to avoid the hassle and worry that can go along with lead-based paint.

At the end of the day, every buyer needs to make their own decision regarding homes with lead-based paint. Make it an educated decision by checking out the following resources:

Photos courtesy of EditorB, ingrid taylar and Jan Tik