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Protecting MN renters from radon ‘a basic responsibility’

When selling a residential property, Minnesota law requires the seller to disclose any knowledge of radon concentrations in the dwelling.

Landlords have no such obligations when renting their properties to tenants.

“This should be a basic responsibility for people offering properties for rent,” said Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan). “We owe it to the people of our state.”

She sponsors HF2463, which would expand the radon disclosure rules in the Minnesota Radon Awareness Act to include rental properties.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the bill on a party-line 10-7 vote Thursday and sent it to the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill would require a landlord to:

  • complete radon testing every five years in buildings where they lease units to tenants;
  • provide the results to all current tenants and the local government inspector;
  • provide a copy of the Department of Health publication on radon in rental properties to all prospective tenants along with the most recent radon test and any mitigation or remediation for the rental unit; and
  • mitigate elevated radon levels within 120 days of the test.

Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health definitions are used for an “elevated” radon level, which is 4 pCi/L (picocuries of radon per liter of air).

The average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the national level, according to the Health Department. An estimated 600 Minnesotans and 21,000 people in the United States die each year from lung cancer due to exposure of the colorless, tasteless and odorless gas.

“These are avoidable deaths,” Reyer said.

She also called it an equity issue, noting that a high percentage of renters are from communities that are already at greater health risk.

“We have an obligation to say all communities, all people in the state, have a right to a safe and healthy home regardless of how old their housing is or where they live,” she said.

Kyle Berndt, director of public policy at the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, opposes the bill, saying the 120-day deadline to install radon mitigation systems after a test shows elevated radon levels is too short.

Some radon mitigation systems, he said, are simple, like air exchangers, but others — especially in multi-unit dwellings — can require elaborate, difficult-to-design systems.

He also has concerns about the cost, saying he knows of one large landlord who would have to pay $500,000 every five years to meet the testing provisions.

Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), who owns rental properties, also objects to the financial burden the bill would put on landlords, calling it “a general piling on that housing providers are experiencing right now.”

Reyer said she is sensitive to the costs to landlords and is preparing an amendment that would appropriate money for a Health Department grant program to help landlords pay for radon mitigation.

Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) sponsors the companion bill, SF2345, which awaits action by the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

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