RADON TESTS WILL BE REQUIRED IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY MD FOR ALL SINGLE FAMILY SALES AFTER 10/1/16
Before October 1, 2016, the standard sales contract in Montgomery County has an optional radon inspection which a buyer can include in the offer to purchase. If the house tests with an elevated radon level, the buyer can declare the contact void or request that the seller remediate the radon levels. If the seller agrees to remediate, the contract remains in place and the purchase moves forward. If the seller says no, the buyer can decide to continue with the purchase or terminate it.
The Montgomery County Council recently passed a new law over opposition from the local real estate board which becomes effective October 1, 2016 and will require all single family homes in Montgomery County to be tested for radon before closing. The law does not require that well water be tested for radon if the home is on well water. The law also does not require remediation if the radon levels are above 4.0.
State law already required disclosure of known elevated radon levels, but the new law makes testing mandatory prior to the sale of any single family homes after October 1, 2016. GCAAR (the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors) succeeded in lobbying for several amendments to the law before its final passage, including exemptions for estate sales,foreclosures and demolitions. GCAAR also fought to ensure that the new requirements could be met by the seller using a radon test kit which is commercially available. Kits start at about $25.00. GCAAR is in the process of updated the standard forms to reflect the new requirement.
You can read the specific requirements of the new law here. While the testing is mandatory it seems that the seller can do an anticipatory test within a year in advance of closing or the buyer can perform the test. If the test results are in excess of 4 picocuries, then a licensed contractor must be consulted to determine the cost of remediation to reduce the radon levels below 2 picocuries, but the remediation does not have to take place before closing. There also are no specific penalties for failure to comply with the new law.
When working with a buyer, I generally ask on behalf of my client that the house be tested for radon and if the radon levels are above four that the remediation take place. I recently had a home which tested around 11, and the buyer was very upset and concerned that the radon could not be remediated below 1. In fact, the radon remediation company was able to bring the test results below 1 and everyone was very happy at closing.
Radon is an issue in Montgomery County but levels are not typically excessive and the radon levels can easily fixed. I am going to start advising all my seller clients to test for radon in advance of putting homes on the market. In that way, if the home tests for elevated radon levels, it is easy to reduce the radon levels to an acceptable level before a potential buyer becomes anxious and might consider voiding the contract. In addition a three month radon test is infinitely more reliable than a two day test, which can be affected by seasonal changes and increased humidity in the air.