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Lead paint regs and landlords

Posted by Rona Fischman  June 17, 2008 03:51 PM

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Last week, a landlord asked me to address the impact of the lead paint law on landlords.

The Massachusetts lead paint law is very clear: the owner of the property is responsible for making the property lead-safe if a child under six lives there. Once a child is born, that child has the right to a lead-safe environment. It is a health and safety law, just like a landlord must maintain a working toilet in a rental unit.
As a landlord, you must present this form to prospective tenants. Landlords may not discriminate against families with children. They cannot ask pregnant women or children to leave.

There are many stories of landlords caught between a rock and hard place when they need the rental income, but do not have the cash to delead for their tenants. The good news is that there are programs which will pay for deleading. If you are not eligible for one of these programs, there are do-it-yourself classes that help make the work cheaper.

Deleading has become easier. Encapsulatant paints and other low-risk methods have been approved. Deleading is a cost of doing business just like any other health and safety issue in your rental unit.

Title 5 -- the septic system law -- could require expensive repair before sale of homes not on public sewer. Likewise, the lead paint law is designed to establish a safe standard for housing. When Title 5 first came into effect, I spent countless hours taking classes about human waste. There was a lot of dissention about who bears the cost of changing to meet the new standards. I see this as similar.
What is your lead paint experience? Have you been forced to delead for a tenant? Have you had trouble finding a place to live because you have children?

Did you have to put in a septic system to pass Title 5 regulations? What other expensive repairs do owners do in the name of health and safety regulations?

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34 comments so far...
  1. No, they can't ask you to leave. But upon finding out I was pregnant, our landlord raised our rent by 50%. This he can do, legally.

    If we move forward with a discrimination suit, we need to prove that the place has lead paint. Which means that the place must be tested and if it does prove to have lead paint(which I'm sure it does) we will be uprooted anyway while the place is cleaned.

    So, our choices are... pay the exorbitant rent or move out one way or another. Thank you Mr. Landlord for adding more to stress to an already stressful time.

    Posted by a June 17, 08 04:20 PM
  1. Deleading is a cost of doing business just like any other health and safety issue in your rental unit.

    Which is why most 2-families sold in Massachusetts over the past few years were vastly overpriced. And why the market for these properties has now collapsed. Without the mirage of appreciation, potential buyers now recognize that many multifamilies offer a negative return on investment.

    Posted by Marcus June 17, 08 04:29 PM
  1. Lead is a serious issue to me because I have a two year old. I have found that in my search for a rental has become increasingly stressful because of the status of so many homes containing lead. I am in favor for it to be mandated into law that all homes be compliant in containing zero lead. I think it should be in landlords plan when buying a home that contains lead to have it removed especially if there is assistance out there and do it yourself instructions.
    I think the benefit outweighs the cost since there will be many potential renters you will no longer need to turn away because of the lead. I do not side with any landlord who wishes to remain in the home containing lead. It seems unethical knowing the damage it could cause to children under 6.

    Posted by Jojo June 17, 08 04:30 PM
  1. Jojo: The following website re: getting lead testing history and reports on Massachusetts properties was posted to an earlier blog entry. I thought you might find it helpful.

    http://webapps.ehs.state.ma.us/Leadsafehomes/default.aspx

    Lead inspectors are required to report all abnormal lead tests; and this is the link to a database of abnormal lead inspected homes. Just plug in a street name / address.

    Posted by MWest June 17, 08 05:04 PM
  1. I am in favor for it to be mandated into law that all homes be compliant in containing zero lead.

    And therefore you are in favor paying a say, 90% increase in your rent?

    Posted by Marcus June 17, 08 05:52 PM
  1. So ,say that someone lives in a deleaded house and the next house is not ,and the kid from the deleaded house is playing in the next door house and eats the lead who is to be blamed?

    Posted by Tim June 17, 08 06:12 PM
  1. Rona, would you be willing to expand on your post with some information for buyers and sellers of residential real estate, in regard to lead paint disclosure and requirements?

    I realize you're not an attorney, but it might be helpful to people if they knew some of the rules about disclosure and mitigation, etc.

    Posted by John A Keith June 17, 08 08:18 PM
  1. Since all residential units that have had a noncompliant lead test are posted on a readily accessible public website, it would seem to me that there is no excuse for either a real estate agent or a seller not to disclose a noncompliant unit.

    "Don't know - don't tell" is not an acceptable legal defense for a landlord in the uncommon circumstance of childhood lead toxicity within a rental unit. It would be surprising if it is legally acceptable for a real estate agent or seller not to perform due diligence in checking this fact before selling a home that has been tested. Postings of "unknown" under lead disclosure in the property listing should not be allowed, if there is a noncompliant test recorded in the public domain. Rona, do you check this for your clients when researching potential properties?

    Posted by GB June 17, 08 11:34 PM
  1. It is my understanding that there is an exception in the statute for owner occupied multi-family homes. Those landlords may choose legally not to rent to anyone with a child under 6. Can anyone confirm this exception??

    Posted by Lilly June 18, 08 10:48 AM
  1. The lead paint laws on the books (at both the federal and state levels) are a cruel joke.

    I have friends who just had a daughter, and were forced out of their apartment. Their landlord flatly refused to de-lead, and threatened them with an enormous rent increase if they forced her hand. It was a two-family unit, with the landlord resident upstairs; how many options did they really have? Press ahead with the time and effort required to fight for their rights, and in the process, forever antagonize their landlords with whom they have to live, and on whom they necessarily rely for a thousand and one small things? A victory in that circumstance would likely prove pyrrhic. And what were the odds that an advocacy group or law enforcement agency would be willing to take on a little old lady living off the rent from her single unit, anyway?

    When I was looking for an apartment to rent a few years ago, I mentioned to my broker that we were looking for more space because we were expecting a child. He told me he wouldn't show me any leaded apartments. I pointed out that that was illegal. He just laughed, and replied that I was renting just one unit, but that if he put a tenant with a child in a building that hadn't be deleaded, its landlord would never list with his firm again, and he'd probably lose his job. Like my friends, I didn't seek legal redress. Why go after a single sleazy broker, working his way through graduate school with a summer job? His firm retained plausible deniability, as did the landlord - I couldn't nail the real culprits, anyway. And it simply wasn't worth my time or effort to fight.

    The net effect is that, because in many inner-ring communities well over half the housing stock has never been deleaded, parents with small children who want to rent a unit are stuck looking at those properties built in the last few decades or which have, for whatever reason, been deleaded. That constricts supply, and drives up the price for such units, rather substantially. That's the real hidden cost of the lead paint legislation - now, if you have a child, you have to pay more in rent, and have a smaller number of properties from which to choose. It's a perverse outcome - the cost of lead paint is now borne by parents, not by the firms that manufactured the paint, not by those who applied it to the walls, not by those profiting from owning units, and not by society at large.

    The law was crafted to target large landlords - those with many units to rent. It's actually had some success there - such firms have access to the capital required for remediation, and are nervous about being strictly liable for damages. They can't monitor their tenants as closely, either, and are less likely to know when children arrive in the unit. So, many such firms have deleaded their properties. And it's easier to target enforcement efforts at such companies - they're often renting comparable units to multiple tenants, making discrimination much easier to demonstrate, and there's an inherent efficiency in targeting companies where a single enforcement action can lead to improvements at dozens or hundreds of other units.

    The problem is that most the leaded housing stock that remains is in smaller buildings. Triple-deckers. Two-family homes. Small apartment buildings. Without far, far more serious sanctions than the law presently provides, and without stepped-up enforcement efforts, we've reached a dead end. A landlord with a pregnant tenant or prospective renter faces three choices: Allow the tenant to live in a (possibly) leaded unit, and face strict liability for damages and thus financial ruin; delead the unit, as the law requires, and be out a large sum of money; or find some way to evict the tenant or to deny the renter a lease, and make the headache vanish. It's really not a hard choice, particularly because there's almost no chance they'll ever be held to account. There's just no enforcement of the current laws against small landlords, and the current sanctions are insufficiently severe.

    What we need, I think, is an entirely new approach. I agree with Marcus that the costs of deleading ought not be borne by landlords alone; all that does is create skewed incentives, encouraging discrimination. What we need is both a bigger carrot and a bigger stick. We should pass a generous tax credit that would pay half the cost of deleading a property, up to a maximum amount (to ensure it's used mostly on two- and three-family homes by small landlords). It's expensive, to be sure, but the truth is that we, as a society, created this mess, and it's not fair that landlords alone should foot the bill. We already have loan programs in place to finance the remainder of the cost. And then we should set a deadline, by which all homes in the State of Massachusetts must be inspected for lead, and if necessary, deleaded. The original plan was to do this piecemeal - as rental properties turned over, the logic was, progressively more of the housing stock would be deleaded. Well, that plan has stalled. We have a segregated market place - properties available for all to rent, and those only for people without small children. That's outrageous. So set a deadline - say, 2015 - by which all rental units have to be lead free. Homes made available for sale should be given similar incentives, and required to be lead-free by the date of the closing. The current system effectively penalizes families with children in the retail market, too - if there are two purchasers willing to spend the same amount on a home, the one without kids will always win, because the parents have to factor the cost of deleading into their bid. And that has a huge impact - if both bidders have set aside 100k for a 20% down payment, but one will have to spend 10k on deleading, then one will bid $500k and the other $450k.

    As long as a particular child living in a particular unit is the trigger for a costly renovation, we're going to see rampant discrimination in the rental market, a rental penalty imposed on families, and an uphill climb for families looking to purchase a home. Deleading should be completed by a standard deadline, and the costs split between the state which is imposing the mandate and the landlord or owner. Simple, fair, effective.

    Posted by Cynic June 18, 08 11:06 AM
  1. Rona here:

    I've been talking about lead paint since May 28th John, you must have missed that one for buyers. Last week it was about negotiation and lead paint. I have at least three more topics regarding lead that I want to discuss here. However, I don't want to bore people who think this is a non-issue. So, let's keep discussing lead here. I will post something on lead paint every Wednesday until this topic runs dry. I come from a human service background and feel very strongly about health, safety and environmental issues around housing. If you have direct questions, write me. That's how this entry was "born."

    To answer the direct question about the database of lead-tested homes: I use the database, but I find that it is slow to post. I have a client who tested for lead in April and his test has not yet been entered in the database. I just checked.

    Posted by Rona June 18, 08 11:22 AM
  1. For those who complain about landlords not checking for lead/deleading- give me a break!

    YOU have a responsibility too. If you move into a house that was built before 1978, chances are that is has lead paint. If you know you are planning a family or have a youg child- don't move in!

    If the landlords don't mind a smaller renter pool- it is their choice and none of anybody elses' business.

    BTW-I'm renting. And my building was bulid after '78. If it wasn't- it would have been MY RESPONSIBILITY to decide if that's ok with me to move in or not.

    Posted by AA June 18, 08 11:32 AM
  1. No Marcus I am not agreeing to pay extra 90% or whatever rate for rent because I look for a home that does not contain lead (Remember I have a 2 year old). How many decades ago was it unknown that lead was harmful. We are in the 21st century. All I am saying is do it now because what is the benefit of putting it off. Do you mean to tell me that all these owners of these homes will never encounter having maybe someone in thier own family with a chld under six. Let's be real, it's not right and everyone knows it. All these ads "I have a wonderful modern 3 bedroom, laundry, EIK, living, dining, front and back porches but by the way it contains lead." Give me a break.

    Posted by Jojo June 18, 08 11:58 AM
  1. Why is it unfair for people with kids to pay more for kid-friendly apartments? Why do we all have to pay for other people's children. In so many ways people without kids, some of whom don't have them because they don't feel they can afford them, have to subsidize other people's kids. Very few people have to have them.

    As far as lead in apartments, I think it should be legal offer what you have to offer, with full disclosure, even if it isn't perfect. MA regulation drives me crazy. If you are renting to poor people who can't afford a perfect apartment, is it your fault that that's what you have to offer, or that that's all they can afford?

    Posted by UncleJulie June 18, 08 12:06 PM
  1. What Jojo is saying is, "I would like to live in an apartment that meets my precise needs and specifications, and I would like you to pay for it."

    In other words, you would prefer that all landlords make a capital investment that could reach as high as $100,000 or more, and not pass any of the costs onto their customers.

    The market doesn't work that way, and you are highly likely to be disappointed in your expectations.

    Posted by Marcus June 18, 08 01:16 PM
  1. We're not talking about "kid-friendly apartments," we're talking about "housing that won't leave a child brain-damaged." This isn't a mandate to install a swingset in the backyard, it's a requirement to remove a highly-toxic substance from the living areas of a unit before someone gets hurt. What I'm pointing out is that most local landlords (and many brokers) openly flout the applicable laws, which prohibit discrimination, and that as a consequence, families with children have fewer choices and end up paying more for their housing. You may not like those laws, UncleJulie, but they're crystal clear - families with children are a protected class. Under the law, they shouldn't pay a dime more. But the laws aren't working the way they're supposed to.

    There's a problem out there - we spent a century slathering lead onto the walls of our homes. Now, it's there, and expensive to get rid of it. So the outstanding questions are (a) who should bear the costs of this problem? and (b) when should removal be accomplished?

    As things presently stand, the costs are allocated to parents of small children, who are forced to pay more for their housing and have fewer options; to landlords, who have to foot the bill for remediation; and to taxpayers, who bear the cost of the very modest tax credit and loan programs set up to assist landlords. And the timing of the removal? Since lead paint is mostly a danger to small children, the law only imposes a mandate when they move in to the space.

    All of this seemed very reasonable, even progressive, when the laws were first passed. But we've had the chance to watch how this works, we know that the programs are flwed, and now we need to fix the problems. The whole point of the array of laws and programs was to ensure that children weren't exposed to lead paint, because when they are, there's a huge cost to society, ranging from lower productivity to the enormous expense of special services for the severely disabled. We've had some success on that front, but not enough. In 2006, there were 96 children who were diagnosed with lead poisoning, and a total of 459 confirmed cases of at least moderately elevated lead levels. Every one of those cases represents an entirely avoidable tragedy.

    It turns out that what seemed a reasonable compromise - allowing the arrival of a child to trigger remediation - is in fact an invitation for discrimination and wilfull ignorance. In the eyes of most landlords, the paint isn't the problem - children are. So landlords leave units untested, fail to disclose the results, or fail to properly correct problems. (Yes, parents have full responsibility for avoiding such situations, but they're not the ones who'll pay the price - it's their innocent children who suffer the consequences.) And landlords decline to rent to families with children, or force them from their apartments. (Yes, it's illegal, but there's virtually no enforcement.) And in those cases in which landlords actually want to behave responsibly, they're left footing an often substantial bill. They can't reasonably anticipate when they're going to get hit with the cost. Other landlords on the block may not face similar expenses. They get a raw deal, too.

    So instead of sticking it to parents and landlords, we need a more equitable division of responsibility. We need a statewide mandate, because doing this piecemeal just doesn't work. And if that means that you have to pay for other people's children, it won't be the only time. On the other hand, I suspect you benefit from a wide variety of government services that I never use. The test of good public policy isn't, "What's in it for me?" but rather, "Is this a cost-effective use of taxpayer funds, and will it deliver benefits to the general public that exceed its expense?" As far as lead paint is concerned, I think the answer is clearly in the affirmative. Universal remediation that splits the costs between landlords and government would dramatically lower the incidence of lead poisoning, remove the penalty paid by parents, and ease the double-squeeze on landlords caught between potential liabilities and enormous costs. What's not to love?

    Posted by Cynic June 18, 08 01:29 PM
  1. Marcus, I'd be willing to pay a 900% increase in my rent if it lessened (even remotely) the chance of my child developing lead poisoning down the road. I've got to to say, that's some pretty back***ward thinking - "it's a problem, but an expensive one so we should just ignore it"

    Posted by Dan June 18, 08 03:37 PM
  1. Thank you Cynic for claryfying what I have been trying to get Marcus to focus on. Initially when I mentioned it being mandated into law was so that there is a solution created for the issue. I agree that costs are high on both ends but that is why the state should get involved. We have mandatory healthcare that comes out of our tax dollars. Using tax dollars for a few years to ensure the future, safety, and health of all children means more to me than leaving it neglected for more of the discrimination and incidences of lead poisoning on innocent children to go on. I love my child and and I would do every means possible to ensure she is in safe environment but the government should do the same in ensuring that every home is qualified to be a safe dwelling. Marcus would you say this to your mother as child when she was looking for a place for you to live and be safe in? Have we completely loss ethics when money is involved?

    Posted by Jojo June 18, 08 03:54 PM
  1. If the disclosure says that the apartment has lead paint, and you have children, you don't rent it. Simple as that. Parents should know enough not to move their children into apartments that may cause them to get brain damage. The mere fact that someone has an apartment to rent does not make them responsible to make sure it is safe for families with children to rent. You offer what you have, lay out all the facts to renters, and renters take a place or leave it based on those facts.

    Also, discrimination doesn't mean what you think it means. Well, I should say the definition has been grossly expanded in recent years to shift from rights to entitlements. Discrimination is when you deny someone something based on hate of the group they belong to, not when you can't afford to accommodate them because they cost you extra money.

    The laws may be clear, but I'm allowed to disagree with them.

    Jojo, why are you so comfortable having the government's hand in everything you do? How much do you trust the government? How little do you trust yourself? You are pleased that they mandate your health care, and can't wait for more mandates? New laws and regulations are not the answer to everything, and entitlements (when someone gives you something just for living) necessarily infringe on rights (when the government is not allowed to remove your freedom to do something).

    Posted by UncleJulie June 18, 08 04:34 PM
  1. Jojo, what you are missing is that someone has to pay for what you want. Its not free. And shoving the costs down landlords throats is populist, and "progressive" but it doesn't work - ever wonder why there are so many apartments around that won't really "fit" children? If you want a place that suits you perfectly, buy a place and renovate it. Can't afford it? Probably the landlord can't either. So in order to pay for the lead paint removal, rents have to rise.

    In order to pay for more municipal sevices, property tax rises. In order to pay for property tax, rents have to rise.

    I rent by the way. But I also understand that I am paying for a service, which in turn has to pay other prices. I don't expect to get things for free.

    Cynic has it right.

    The lead thing is also not really a problem. We all grew up with lead paint on the walls. I wouldn't hesitate to have my own kid in such an apartment. Lead is pretty easy to protect your child from, frankly.

    Take a look at who and where the lead paint poisonings took place.

    And how many of you are worried about lead in the water in old houses? A very real, much more relevant issue?

    Typical massachusetts, everyone worries about the colorful non-event, and not about the very real threats out there. I am continually bemused by that.

    Regulation is not a substitute for common sense.

    Posted by charles June 18, 08 04:51 PM
  1. In response to the first comment, actually they cannot raise your rent if it is in response to a request for meeting the regulations in the lead law. That is considered retaliation and is illegal. There are a number of agencies in the area that are responsible for addressing discrimination and retaliation related to lead paint laws in Massachusetts. The Fair Housing Center in Boston is a good start, as is the Childhood Lead Paint Prevention Program.

    Posted by advocate June 18, 08 08:59 PM
  1. Of course they can't. Legally. But its easy to find a defensible pretext - rise in property tax, rise in plumbing bills, renovation needed....

    Posted by charles June 18, 08 10:51 PM
  1. According to some really old data by the Conservation Law Foundation, 59% of the state’s 1.2 million dwellings contain lead paint, for a total of 708,000 homes with lead. Using the same report adjusted for inflation, it would cost approximately $5000 to abate the average two- to four-bedroom dwelling. So the total cost would be about $3.5 billion—with a “b”—to abate every lead-containing home and apartment in the state.

    Massachusetts has about 3.1 million taxpayers. The average cost per taxpayer would be $1,200—in a state where the average taxpayer pays about $5400 in state and local taxes.

    Now, I don’t know where the CLF got that figure (reported as $2500 in 1987 dollars) twenty years ago. A report in the Globe recently described a couple spending in excess of $100,000 for lead remediation. More recent estimates suggest average costs of $10,000 and $15,000 per unit. (Some homes can use cheap encapsulation techniques, others require far more expensive procedures.) At $10,000, we get a total cost to the state of over $7 billion, or $2,300 per taxpayer.

    Obviously those figures don’t include the costs of relocating families and lost rents while work is completed. And lower income taxpayers would not be paying the full cost, making the burden even greater for those earning the median income or higher.

    With 96 children diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2006, accepting the statistics quoted above, making the entire state lead-free would mean spending around $75,000,000 per child to prevent these “easily preventable” tragedies. There is no cost/benefit analysis in the world that would justify such expenditures.

    Marcus would you say this to your mother as child when she was looking for a place for you to live and be safe in?

    Jo Jo, I grew up in an old house with lead paint. As did my siblings. None of us suffered lead poisoning. But then, my mother used sophisticated abatement techniques called “dusting.” Washing our hands. And maintaining the house in good shape. Such techniques are easily available to all, and they don’t cost $7 billion either.

    Posted by Marcus June 19, 08 11:19 AM
  1. Eloquently put Marcus. Such common sense will get you exiled.

    I can't remember ever seeing a child eating a wall. But surely if one did, parents should step in?

    Barring poor housekeeping and in-attentive parents, how does the lead get into the child?

    And once again, why is no one concerned with lead in the water, which children do take in, but rather lead on walls, which children really shouldn't consume in large quantities?

    Posted by charles June 19, 08 12:37 PM
  1. Charles, it's a foible not limited to Massachusetts. More people are afraid of snakes than toasters, yet guess which causes more injuries?

    I do want to say, I'm not at all against lead paint regulation per se. I'm simply pointing out that it's easy to make histrionic, grandiose proposals to fix a problem, and quite a bit harder to pay for them.

    Posted by Marcus June 19, 08 01:47 PM
  1. I take Marcus' points, but think that the math could use some work.

    First of all, you're using an unadjusted number from twenty years ago - before these laws were passed - to quantify the scale of the problem. There's simply no question that many of these dwellings have since been deleaded. Nationally, HUD estimates that the number of homes with lead paint declined from 64 million in 1990 to just 38 million in 2000. That's a national figure - the decline was likely more dramatic in Massachusetts, which has outrun the national average in the decline in reported cases of lead poisoning, implying that it's also ahead on removing lead from homes. That's not surprising - we put our laws in place before any other state, and they're still among the strictest in the country. Add in the other ten years since that initial estimate, and we're almost certainly talking about fewer than half as many homes, perhaps dramatically fewer.

    But let's be conservative, and figure we're talking about some 300,000 dwellings. The next thing to bear in mind is that most of these are single-family homes. I proposed only forcing abatement in these units at the time of sale, so it'd be phased in over decades. We'd need a tighter time frame on rental units. But either way, you've put the costs as if they fall in a single year. Framed that way, all kinds of things would suddenly seem unaffordable. For example, we're spending $1 billion on life sciences - but spreading it over a decade. And remember, I'm only suggesting that government foot half the bill.

    But compounding that error, you assume that there are just 96 children who suffer full out lead poisoning. But that's the figure just for the past year. In a decade, that extrapolates to 1,000 children - over fifty years, 5,000 children. The 450 children who tested dangerously high will also almost certainly be harmed, although their damage won't be as dramatic. That's 4,500 over a decade, or 22,500 over fifty years.

    I completely agree that we have to weigh the costs and benefits. Perhaps we'd be best off targeting the remaining rental units for now. Maybe we should allow cheaper and less extensive remediation, even if it's not perfect - why let that be the enemy of the good? These things are worth discussing. My basic point, though, is that if we're trying to get rid of lead paint around children, the present system seems to be generating diminishing returns, and some degree of blowback. And that's worth correcting.

    Posted by Cynic June 19, 08 05:24 PM
  1. I'm sure the math could use some work, considering I was the only one in the thread who did any. Most seemed content simply to demand lavish taxpayer subsidies, and openly ridiculed the idea of cost-benefit analyses.

    Perhaps we'd be best off targeting the remaining rental units for now.

    Why not owners? Think of the children. Or are we randomly just picking on groups--landlords--we don't approve of and think are politically vulnerable?

    In any case, even if we confine your deleadapalooza to rental units, who, precisely, is going to pay for it? The costs are still astronomical.

    And by costs, I really mean spending. Lead is only one example of the unholy alliance that tends to form in this state between well-intentioned advocates and well-heeled contractor lobbyists. I've stripped plenty of woodwork in old houses. You are never going to convince me it costs $100 grand--or even just 15--to strip only parts of old woodwork throughout a house unless you live in the Breakers.


    Posted by Marcus June 19, 08 08:04 PM
  1. "I can't remember ever seeing a child eating a wall. "

    Guys, guys, guys, lead poisoning comes less from a child "eating" paint than from ingesting / inhaling tiny particles that come off from, say, the friction of opening a window. And guess what? If there is a part of the interior of a house that is painted with lead paint, chances are it will be a window or door or pantry drawers or other moving woodwork. Lead paint was used in places where people wanted a bright, shiny look (not on a wall!) We really need to get around this misinformed "parents shouldn't let their kids eat paint chips" mentality if we're going to have a conversation about lead paint.

    Posted by K.B. June 21, 08 08:44 AM
  1. Details, details, details ....

    As an owner of a two-family which I just deleaded at a cost of $25k per unit, I clearly agree with the need for lead-safe homes. Part of the problem is how the Commonwealth has chosen to define 'lead safe.' I'd encourage anyone to read the requirements for meeting the 'lead safe' standard and try to understand the specifics of how these regulations are implemented.

    A great example from my experience was a surface that the inspector was worried the authorities would consider an "accessible, mouthable surface." The surface in question was the interior of a 1/2" gap between old window frame and new insert window. There was an actual debate about if a child could get their mouth inside a 1/2" space! If this is the level of "safety" that is required of all landlords, no wonder it is soo expensive to delead.

    As for those who point to Low-cost or No-cost loans a means of defraying costs, I would again encourage you to look at the details. At least in Cambride, there are significant restrictions on these loans. There are ceilings for the No-Cost loans on how much the home-owner can make and how much the apartment can rent for; these ceilings exclude about 3/4 to 2/3 of the market from securing the No-Cost loans. While the Low-Cost loans require the use of contractors and materials specified by the loaning agency.

    As the above posts clearly demonstrate, lead safety is a real issue with no clear or easy solution. However, I would encourage the policy makers and regulators to think beyond the questions of "should deleading be done" and "who should pay for it." Instead I think we could benefit from first looking at the details of what exactly it means to be "lead safe" and should we broaden access to assistance for landlords who would like to do the right thing.

    Posted by Clarence_Beaks June 23, 08 07:28 PM
  1. Your comment about do-it-yourself making it cheaper is misleading. We were renovating a room in our house about a decade ago, and decided to take the intermediate-level one-day deleading course to learn about our options. This was when the encapsulants were just coming onto the market.

    Even the intermediate level homeowner certification only allows you to touch about 4 square feet of lead paint. I don't know about the encapsulant process, but even that level of deleading will void your certificate of occupancy until the place tests perfectly clean of lead. At the time,. we had seen some truly horrible deleading jobs (there was a "minimal" deleading process where all paint up to 5 feet from the floor was removed, leaving a line around the house at eye level where the old paint stopped). We opted to not get certified, and to replace the baseboards rather than repaint them (as a renovation, not a deleading).

    Lead is a real problem, and there is no good solution to it. It can be extremely expensive to delead. In our case, our 2-family has about 60 windows and frames, all with lead paint on them, and the best solution for the friction surfaces is to replace them. 60 double-hung windows (taking a minimal $300 per window is close to $20000, ignoring the installation and associated deleading costs).

    I don't believe that do-it-yourself is at all a a viable cost-saving option for deleading. By saying it, I think you are (not intentionally) encouraging people to do their own deleading, which is not only illegal, but can leave things far worse than doing nothing--spreading lead dust throughout the apartment and the neighborhood.

    Posted by Been There June 25, 08 08:17 AM
  1. Reading all of your posts is good. We have a multi family property we bought "unknown" we were very young and first time homebuyers, I feel we were not knowledgable enough about the REAL Ma lead laws. We are now faced with most likely having to de lead as I do not want to turn families away. We had good tenants that were here when we arrived, older no kids. But now they are gone and this reality has hit us like a train. As a very good landlord I think many of you have landlords put into a classification of "slum" lords, when MANY of us are just like you. Hard working, have families and trying to survive. As someone else said it was OUR decision to buy a home that is much older with lead "unknown" our choice to raise kids here and be attentive and careful for them. As good people we will do what we need to do, but that needs to be figured into future rent rates. After all, it is to make the environment safe for YOUR family.., not the landlords who won't be living there.

    Posted by Agatha July 3, 08 05:51 PM
  1. How long does the law give you that once lead paint is found to remedy. I have a situation where lead base is found, but the landlord said that I have to leave next weekend becasue they cant afford to pay for the removal. How long, by law, do I have ? Can she really throw me and my family (my 3 month old and husband) out? Do I not have.. 30 days to vacate?

    Posted by Help March 13, 09 07:46 PM
  1. Having been both a landlord and tenant, I disagree with the current lead paint laws. First, agreed that small-scale landlords are going to deny rentals to families with young children - they'd be crazy not to! (Having said that, there are many reasons why people might be hesitant to rent to families with young children, and it's not all about money. Many parents today are inconsiderate re. their children, pets, etc creating disturbances for their neighbors. If a landlord has a building mostly inhabited by quiet, older tenants who enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, why would they want to jeopardize changing the quality of life in the building by renting to a family with young kids? I also had a set of tenants who were abusing and neglecting their three kids in my home, and despite both myself and neighbors making police and DSS reports, nothing was done to protect them. This angered me, and is not something that I'd ever want to have to stand by and witness again in my home.) Landlords have very few rights in Massachusetts as it is, and it costs a lot of money and time for them to enforce the few which they do have. There are a lot of highly irresponsible tenants out there, and they're very difficult and costly for landlords to get rid of. When I was renting, I treated the property as I would my own, paid my rent on time, and upheld the contractual terms to the letter...but I've found this to be rare on the flip side of the coin. Many of us are renting out a secondary home which we can't sell in this poor market, through no faults of our own, in order to avoid foreclosure on the property - we are hardly millionaires who are "profiting" off of the rental of our homes or units. I'd love to live long enough to actually see a profit of even a month or two per year on my second home! With insurance, taxes, mortgage bills, upkeep, and still paying on legal fees for having to evict former tenants (I've had some real winners, despite thorough screening!) it ends up that I am still behind each month, even when I do have a tenant in the home. The solution? First, I think that this goes WAY beyond a singular issue, such as lead paint. I think that many of the laws require changing, so that landlords and tenants are provided with equal legal protection - not automatic protection for tenants only. Next, I think that re. the issue of lead paint, tenants need to take some responsibility here. If you're pregnant, thinking of becoming, or have young kids...are you honestly claiming that there are no modern units you can rent in the area? I don't buy it. Many of the large complexes are new or like new, have very competitive rent, and many accept Section 8 (yes, I do have quite a comprehensive listing of them.) Why a tenant would opt to rent an older home, especially if s/he has kids, is beyond me. What about mold? The law doesn't require landlords to test for the presence of black mold prior to rental. How about radon? Former hazardous waste buried in the yard? Septic issues? Rodent infestations? All of these things can cause just as, if not more serious health effects to all tenants - not just kids under six. I wonder what's so special about lead paint that the state decided to require inspection/remediation of this, but not for any of those other things, which can prove dangerous to all household members? Taking that into account, if a tenant _chooses_ to rent an older home or unit, and wishes to protect health in the process, s/he will need to be prepared to check these things out at his/her own expense prior to moving in, whether or not the unit has been deleaded.

    Posted by Kimberly Savino September 29, 09 09:10 AM
  1. Having been both a landlord and tenant, I disagree with the current lead paint laws. First, agreed that small-scale landlords are going to deny rentals to families with young children - they'd be crazy not to! (Having said that, there are many reasons why people might be hesitant to rent to families with young children, and it's not all about money. Many parents today are inconsiderate re. their children, pets, etc creating disturbances for their neighbors. If a landlord has a building mostly inhabited by quiet, older tenants who enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, why would they want to jeopardize changing the quality of life in the building by renting to a family with young kids? I also had a set of tenants who were abusing and neglecting their three kids in my home, and despite both myself and neighbors making police and DSS reports, nothing was done to protect them. This angered me, and is not something that I'd ever want to have to stand by and witness again in my home.) Landlords have very few rights in Massachusetts as it is, and it costs a lot of money and time for them to enforce the few which they do have. There are a lot of highly irresponsible tenants out there, and they're very difficult and costly for landlords to get rid of. When I was renting, I treated the property as I would my own, paid my rent on time, and upheld the contractual terms to the letter...but I've found this to be rare on the flip side of the coin. Many of us are renting out a secondary home which we can't sell in this poor market, through no faults of our own, in order to avoid foreclosure on the property - we are hardly millionaires who are "profiting" off of the rental of our homes or units. I'd love to live long enough to actually see a profit of even a month or two per year on my second home! With insurance, taxes, mortgage bills, upkeep, and still paying on legal fees for having to evict former tenants (I've had some real winners, despite thorough screening!) it ends up that I am still behind each month, even when I do have a tenant in the home. The solution? First, I think that this goes WAY beyond a singular issue, such as lead paint. I think that many of the laws require changing, so that landlords and tenants are provided with equal legal protection - not automatic protection for tenants only. Next, I think that re. the issue of lead paint, tenants need to take some responsibility here. If you're pregnant, thinking of becoming, or have young kids...are you honestly claiming that there are no modern units you can rent in the area? I don't buy it. Many of the large complexes are new or like new, have very competitive rent, and many accept Section 8 (yes, I do have quite a comprehensive listing of them.) Why a tenant would opt to rent an older home, especially if s/he has kids, is beyond me. What about mold? The law doesn't require landlords to test for the presence of black mold prior to rental. How about radon? Former hazardous waste buried in the yard? Septic issues? Rodent infestations? All of these things can cause just as, if not more serious health effects to all tenants - not just kids under six. I wonder what's so special about lead paint that the state decided to require inspection/remediation of this, but not for any of those other things, which can prove dangerous to all household members? Taking that into account, if a tenant _chooses_ to rent an older home or unit, and wishes to protect health in the process, s/he will need to be prepared to check these things out at his/her own expense prior to moving in, whether or not the unit has been deleaded.

    Posted by Kimberly Savino September 29, 09 09:18 AM
 
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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