Healthy Homes - Owners & Buyers


Why is real estate part of healthy homes?

Good health begins at home. It is estimated that Americans spend 13-15 hours per day at home and 90% of their time indoors. Buying real estate that leads to a healthy home can be an important part of maintaining good health.

What are Property Maintenance Codes?

Property Maintenance Codes or Building and Safety Codes are minimum property maintenance standards.  Codes can apply to residential or non-residential properties or both.  Codes inspections can occur at any time, though they are most common with new construction or renovation.  Building Codes help to ensure safety within a building.  It is important to have buildings up to code.  Landlords are responsible for meeting Codes.

All metropolitan areas in Tennessee have their own codes departments to enforce Property Maintenance Codes.  While large county or city governments have codes departments, some small towns and rural areas do not have any standardized minimum property maintenance codes.  Several codes departments across the state have adopted the International Property Maintenance Code.  Codes inspectors may check electrical, plumbing, gas, zoning, and other physical aspects of a home.  Contact your local codes department for information specific to your location.


What about home inspections?

Home inspection can be a helpful part of a real estate transaction. Many people choose to have an option for a home inspection in their real estate buying contract. If the home inspection uncovers needed repairs, buyers may cancel their bid and negate their contract. There are various certifications for home inspectors. These inspectors are trained to objectively communicate to you, as the home buyer, the conditions of the home’s major systems and components. An effective home inspector can help you to understand a potential health issue in a home before you buy or move in to it. To find a home inspector, consult the yellow pages, search online, or ask your real estate agent.

To see the home inspectors list for Tennessee and surroundings, click here.  

Click here to read Legal Aid's fact sheet about what you need to know before you repair or remodel.

What does Tennessee law say about disclosure?

The Residential Property Disclosure Act in Tennessee Code Annotated § 66-5-201 to 210 requires most sellers of residential real estate to complete a disclosure statement. The disclosure statement lets the buyers know about the condition of the property. Failure to disclosure information can result in the canceling of a contract and can be the basis for legal action.

The disclosure statement should include the property address and the age of the home. Disclosure requires a list of amenities included with the sale and their condition. Sellers must report any known defects or malfunctions of structural or mechanical components. Disclosure also includes a list of conditions that affect the home such as environmental hazards, encroachments, flood or drainage problems, or remodeling work done without permits or compliance to building codes. If you purchased real estate that had preexisting environmental hazards that you were not told about by the seller, you may wish to seek legal counsel to evaluate your options.

What about Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments?

Former industrial or commercial properties may have hidden environmental hazards. Environmental Site Assessments are reports generated about real estate that identifies existing or potential environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis often addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property.

In a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, records, deeds, property maps, tax assessments and other files are reviewed to determine if a property might have environmental hazards. For a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment, environmental samples of soil, air, water or groundwater may be tested for contaminants. Phase I and/or Phase II Environmental Site Assessments are commonly performed for redevelopment or brownfield sites.

What is a brownfield site?

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program, a brownfield is a property at which expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, uses existing infrastructure, reduces the need to develop open land. Redeveloping brownfield sites may improve and protect the environment.

What about buying new manufactured housing?

Newly constructed manufactured housing is required to meet uniform standards. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Division of Fire Prevention is responsible for licensing, monitoring, inspected, and investigating issue with manufactured homes. They also record complaints.

What about meth labs?

Unfortunately, some people make methamphetamine or other drugs inside their home. As this is a criminal offense, the meth makers will be arrested and property owners will be responsible for clean-up costs. Making meth is dangerous. It involves the use of hazardous and flammable chemicals. Invisible residues leftover from meth making can pollute the inside of a house.

Before you purchase a property, you can check TDEC’s Registry of Contaminated Properties or TBI’s Meth Offender Registry Database to see if there are any criminal meth lab connections to the property. Also, it may be helpful to talk with nearby residents who may know about past activities at the property you are considering to purchase.


Additional resources

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Brownfields Cleanup and Land Revitalization:

Tennessee Division of Fire Prevention 
Manufactured Housing Section:

University of Tennessee
Municipal Technical Advisory Service City Codes and Charters:

U.S. Administration on Aging
Eldercare Locator