Radon: What you need to know.

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that cannot be seen, smelled or tasted and can enter your home undetected. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, and the leading cancer culprit for non-smokers. When radon escapes from the ground outdoors, it is diluted to low concentrations and is not of concern. However, when radon enters an enclosed area, such as a home, it can build up to high levels and become a health risk. If the radon level in a home is high, it can be easily remedied at a reasonable cost. According to Health Canada, “the rectification of the under-slab and under-membrane depressurization systems ranges from approximately $ 2,000 to $ 3,000, materials and labor included.”

Make sure to do a long-term test

Health Canada recommends that houses be tested for a minimum of 3 months, ideally between September and April when windows and doors are typically kept closed. Almost all homes have some radon in them, the question is how much. The only way to know is to measure. Radon levels in a home can vary a lot from hour to hour and day to day. The most accurate way to find out if you have a problem is to measure radon levels in your home for at least 3 months.

Testing options

  •  Purchase a do-it-yourself test kit: it includes instructions on how to set up the test and submit the results for analysis. Radon test kits can be purchased by phone, online, or from home improvement retailers.
  • Hire a radon measurement professional: for professional testing, Health Canada recommends consulting with a contractor certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C- NRPP). Radon-testing professionals are located throughout Canada and a list can be found on their website: www.c-nrpp.ca or by calling 1-855-722-6777.

Decrease the radon levels in your home, it’s easy

Radon levels higher than the Canadian standard of 200 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq / m³) should be rectified. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced by over 80% for about the same cost as other common home repairs, such as replacing a furnace or air conditioner.

The most effective and reliable technique for reducing radon is sub-slab depressurization, also knows as soil depressurization. This method involves running a pipe through the foundation floor slab and attaching an exhaust fan that runs continuously to suck the radon gas from below the house and release it outside where it is quickly diluted. Additionally, this system has the effect of reversing the difference in air pressure between the house and the ground, thereby reducing the amount of radon that is drawn into the house through the foundation.

Remember: Radon is a health risk and using techniques to reduce it can save lives

What are my options as a Buyer?

Due to the considerable lead times to perform accurate long-term testing, there are options to consider with your agent. Find out if the home has ever been tested for radon. If so, ask for a copy of the results. If the home has not been tested, or if the results are above 200 Bq / m³, you should consider one of the following options:

  1. Consider an offer to purchase that reflects the costs of a radon abatement system. The issue is then settled through price negotiations.
  2. Make an offer on the condition that a radon test is completed.
  3. Add a clause to the effect that the seller agrees to place an amount of money in trust to defray the estimated costs of the remediation. If you decide to take the test after the sale is closed, the funds will be dispersed after receiving the documentation that the rectification has been completed. This clause could give rise to concerns among certain financial lenders. If the radon test results are not above 200 Bq / m³, the amount in trust will be returned to the seller.

The AAANB, ACI, PNCR-C, and the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists agree with Health Canada’s recommendations that homeowners use the tests conducted for a minimum of three months in autumn and winter. Indoor radon levels vary from day to day, depending on the season. A test over a three month period is more accurate and more representative of a person’s average exposure and it should be used to determine if the radon level in a home exceeds the Canadian standards of 200 Bq / m³. Although there are shorter tests, longer term tests provide a more representative annual average in terms of radon exposure.

What are my options as a Seller?

In preparing your home for sale with your REALTOR®, you can do a long-term Radon test. If you receive an offer to purchase prior to the test being concluded, the following options may be presented for your consideration:

  1. Receive an offer on the property where the Buyer chooses to do a long-term Radon test after they move in, during the first heating season that they occupy the home.  The price negotiation may consider the potential cost of a Radon mitigation system. This allows the buyer to ensure that the proper protocols and time frame required for Health Canada’s recommended testing is followed, without impeding a shorter closing date.
  2. Receive an offer conditional on having a long-term radon test performed, with a closing date that is long enough to allow for the long-term test to be completed (a minimum of 91 days) and results provided. The condition may indicate the consequences if the test result comes back higher than 200 Bq/ m³.
  3. Receive an offer with a clause added for a long-term test, stating that the Seller agrees to put a negotiated amount in trust with the Buyer’s attorney towards the cost of mitigation, should the results of the test (completed after closing) be above 200 Bq/ m³. The funds would only be dispersed after documentation of the mitigation was completed. If radon testing is not above 200 Bq/ m³, the funds in trust would then be given to the Seller.

If the Buyer chooses option 3, the following clause could be inserted into the Agreement of Purchase and Sale offer:

The BUYER, at the BUYER’s expense, will conduct a long-term radon gas test starting on (insert date)
and ending on (insert date a minimum of 91 days after first date). A holdback of $ (insert amount) will be held in the BUYER’s lawyer’s trust account pending results of the test. If the result of the radon concentration test is equal to or exceeds 200 Bq/ m³, a copy of which will be provided to the SELLER/SELLER’s LAWYER/SELLER’s AGENT (select appropriate individuals and delete the rest) on or before (insert date), the holdback will be released to the BUYER for remediation purposes. If the test results show a concentration of less than 200 Bq/ m³ and remediation is not necessary, the holdback will be reimbursed to the SELLER.

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