Recent Enforcement Activity on Federal Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Law
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 and the Lead Disclosure Rule implementing the act require the owners of most rental property built before 1978 to furnish information concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards to residents before the lease takes effect. The law requires owners to:
Give residents an EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards (“Protect Your Family from Lead In Your Home” pamphlet).
Disclose any known information concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, including the location of the lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, and the condition of the painted surfaces;
Provide any records and reports on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards that are available to the owner (for multi-unit buildings, this requirement includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units, when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation);
Include an attachment to the lease (or language inserted in the lease itself) that includes a Lead Warning Statement and confirms that the owner has complied with all notification requirements, which must be signed and dated by the owner, agents, and resident; and
Retain a copy of the disclosures for no less than three years from the date the leasing period begins.
Violations of the Lead Disclosure Rule may result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation, so owners must be careful to comply with the law's technical requirements, advises Atlanta-based fair housing attorney Robin Hein. Owners of large communities may be subject to substantial penalties for failure to give the required disclosures or otherwise comply with the law, according to Hein, because the penalties are based on each incident, and the amount of the penalty increases based on the seriousness of the violations.
Recent Federal Enforcement Activity
Elimination of childhood lead poisoning by the year 2010 is among the goals of the federal Healthy People 2010 initiative. As part of the federal interagency strategy to achieve that goal, HUD and the EPA have targeted communities across the country to enforce compliance with the federal lead-based paint disclosure law.
Most recently, in January 2008, HUD, the EPA, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota announced a legal settlement with nine Minneapolis/St. Paul area property owners and a property management company for violations of the federal lead-based paint disclosure law.
This settlement requires the owners to completely eliminate all lead-based paint hazards in 179 units in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region. In addition, the owners must pay a civil fine of $7,500 for violating the federal disclosure law and contribute $50,000 toward a local child health improvement project. The owners also must notify residents of lead hazards immediately and comply with the Lead Disclosure Rule in the future.
The settlement was the seventh such agreement in Minnesota. All told, more than 5,000 rental units in Minneapolis/St. Paul (as well as units in Indiana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) will be made lead-safe for residents at a cost of nearly $4 million. In addition, the owners paid a cumulative total of $44,500 in civil fines and provided $220,000 for local projects to improve children's health.
Last year, federal officials announced the resolution of the fifth in a series of enforcement actions against owners and property managers in Los Angeles for violation of the federal Lead Paint Disclosure Law. The settlements require the owners and managers to pay more than $11 million to eliminate or reduce lead hazards in nearly 11,600 rental units, as well as $91,000 in civil fines and more than $60,000 for local children's health projects.
Centers for Disease Control, Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/
Environmental Protection Agency resources on lead in paint, dust, and soil: www.epa.gov/lead/index.html
Federal Lead Paint Disclosure Law: www.hud.gov/offices/lead/enforcement/disclosure.cfm