I would say about once a month I get a call from someone who is looking to retest their home for radon. Now this is not a bad idea, especially if improvements have been made to the home. However most of the calls I receive are from home sellers. As part of the buyer's inspection a radon test was done on the seller's home with the test results coming back over the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L. The seller feels there is a problem with the test usually for one of the following reasons;
- When they bought the house the test their inspector performed was below the action level
- They feel the inspector did the test improperly
- They have never tested the home, but some how believe there can't be radon in their house
The first reason is the one I hear most often. The cause for two different levels from two different tests can be several. One very important characteristic to keep in mind about radon is that it is a naturally occurring gas. In other words its not spewing out of a pipe at a constant level, it varies. It varies with time of day, time of year and with the weather. The first test could have been low due to natural variations. It could also have been low due to procedural errors, but that would be hard to learn and in reality not that important in the context of the home sale.
This brings us to reason number two. Usually the seller has no factual basis for deciding the test was done incorrectly other than the level is high and now they have been asked by the buyer to mitigate the house. When I get a call like this from a seller, I ask them several questions concerning the testing procedures. Frequently I do not hear anything that indicates there was a procedural error on the inspector's part.
The last reason is of course how it sounds, typical proud homeowner who can not believe there is any problems with their castle. My sympathies to their agent.
My advice to all these people is usually the same, save the money you are about to spend to retest and use it for the mitigation system.
In my opinion radon retesting is simply disputing the inspector. This is almost assuredly going to end badly for the seller. The other very important aspect in retesting is who is qualified to both initially test and to retest.
In Connecticut radon testing is unregulated. Anyone can simply set up shop and perform radon tests. Some states, like Pennsylvania for example, have regulation and licensing, but most do not. So a retest may end up being a he said, she said argument, without either side having for lack of a better word, an expert conducting the test.
What I have found is most everyone assumes any home inspector is qualified to test for radon. My experience is that many home inspectors have never taken any type of training for radon testing. If you are in a situation where a homeowner is insisting on a retest of their home, this is what I would learn;
- Does the home inspector who did the test for the buyers have any training or certifications for radon testing. There are two look for, National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) or National Environmental Heath Association (NEHA). Or an appropriate license or certification specific to your state.
- If the first tester does not have any of these qualifications, make certain the person who does the retesting does. In this way you have someone who is better qualified and therefore able to dispute or confirm the first tests validity.
One last point, the protocols for radon test performed as part of a real estate transaction are and have defined by the EPA since 1993. Also many states have radon offices which can be contacted to obtain unbiased information which may help if there is a dispute with a test.
Don't let a high radon test ruin a transaction. Don't dispute, mitigate.
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