Why Landlords Should Be Proactive on Lead Paint in Properties

In March, the Maryland Senate was considering a bill that would require judges to dismiss eviction suits if landlords can’t prove their compliance with lead paint rules. Landlords with properties built prior to 1978 must provide tenants with information about the health risks of lead and take steps to minimize lead hazards. More than 4,900 children in the past decade have been diagnosed with lead poisoning, raising concerns that landlords are not adequately addressing lead hazards.

Advocates for Reform

By law, landlords who own properties built before 1978 must have a valid lead-paint inspection certificate before renting a home to tenants; but, according to the Public Justice Center, judges are not permitted to consider whether a landlord has such a certificate when presiding over an eviction case. Advocates for rental reform say that’s unfair to tenants. This year is not the first for a bill about lead-hazard reduction. In 2016, a bill was introduced that would require landlords to prove they were in compliance with rules about lead hazards, registration, and inspection before filing a claim for eviction. That bill was referred to a summer study committee. Based on that committee’s feedback, the bill was reintroduced in 2017, but it failed to pass.

A Focus on Lead Paint Risks

In March, testimony before the Michigan Legislature hinted at imminent criminal charges related to the ongoing lead-tainted drinking water crisis in Flint that began four years ago. The crisis has raised awareness throughout the country about the dangers of lead, especially for children. Children can suffer severe developmental delays and ongoing disabilities if exposed to lead in the home. Maryland began testing all children for lead poisoning in March of 2016, because if the presence of lead is detected early enough, changes in the home can help prevent serious long-term health consequences. Awareness of lead paint risks puts increased pressure on landlords to comply with lead-abatement laws. Generally, it’s easier to comply with those laws than face lawsuits on behalf of tenants sickened by lead.

Responses to Complaints

When tenants notify landlords of peeling paint (in properties built before 1978), landlords must, within 30 days, temporarily relocate tenants during lead-abatement procedures or permanently relocate tenants to a certified lead-free property. The same rule applies when landlords receive notice that a tenant child younger than 6, or a pregnant tenant, has an elevated level of lead in their blood. Failing to comply with those rules and other lead-related rules can result in civil penalties of up to $25,000, in addition to fines of up to $100,000. Being proactive about lead-paint rules and other issues related to habitability is the best way for landlords to do business. Lusk Law, LLC, focuses on assisting landlords, helping to avoid litigation when possible and actively representing our clients in court when litigation is necessary. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to landlords in Frederick County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please contact us if you need legal advice.