DESCRIPTION OF THE STRATEGY
Although the federal lead hazard disclosure law requires disclosure of known lead hazards prior to the sale or lease of pre-1978 properties, state and local governments have no authority to enforce it. States and localities seeking to enforce lead hazard disclosure requirements must adopt disclosure laws at the state or local level. Complementing federal law with state or local disclosure requirements can strengthen enforcement and compliance and provide supplemental funding for state and local programs through penalties. Paterson, NJ; Cleveland, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Illinois; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; and Vermont require property owners to disclose lead hazard information to prospective homebuyers and tenants.
State or local laws also can expand the protection afforded by the federal law and can require disclosure of additional information. For example, in multifamily dwellings, the federal law requires disclosure of information only if it pertains to the specific unit being rented or common areas. State and local laws could require that information regarding any unit in the building be disclosed to all prospective tenants. In addition, state and local laws could extend the requirements of the federal law to zero-bedroom dwellings and child care centers.
Homebuyers and tenants receive information about lead-based paint to enable them to make informed housing choices. Since the federal government does not have the staff and resources to cite all violations nationwide, this provides local regulators with an additional “stick” to use with recalcitrant landlords. In addition, states and localities with disclosure laws in place can more easily intervene in federal enforcement cases. (Intervention refers to a party joining in a judicial action already in progress in order to protect an interest or right that may be affected by the proceedings.)
Parents aware that there are or may be lead hazards in their homes are more likely to get their children screened and to take steps to control hazards and reduce their children’s exposure to lead. Results of environmental investigations made in response to a poisoned child are required to be disclosed to the next prospective tenant, helping to break the cycle of repeat poisonings. Disclosure requirements will motivate some property owners to address lead hazards.
States and localities can follow the federal example of pursuing “results-oriented enforcement” of the disclosure law. Federal agencies have entered into settlements with defendants that reduce fines in exchange for agreements from the property owner to invest in lead hazard control in their units and contribute to community-wide prevention efforts. These settlements have resulted in more than $22 million in commitments from landlords to address lead hazards in more than 165,000 units around the country and provided more than $360,000 for community-based projects to combat childhood lead poisoning.
Scope of Potential Impact
City - or - County - Wide
Code or Building Inspection Agency
One to two FTEs, possibly over multiple years.
Other resource requirements:
While the direct outcome of a disclosure law will be providing families with information they need to make informed housing choices, the reality is that many families living in high-risk housing do not have real housing options. Therefore, the indirect goal of the disclosure requirement is to motivate property owners to go beyond merely providing information about lead hazards and take steps to address them. Resources to assist landlords of low-income properties and owner-occupants, including free trainings in lead-safe work practices and grants and low- or no-interest loans, would help accomplish this goal.
The lead agency, presumably the health or housing department, must have the capacity to enforce the law in order for this strategy to make a meaningful difference. In addition, judges and prosecutors must be educated about lead poisoning and the goals of the law so that settlements and judgments go beyond collecting fines and actually require owners to take measure that will protect tenants.
This is a low-cost way to motivate owners to invest in lead hazard control. The cost of enforcement can be offset by fees and fines.
The timeline to enact and initially implement a disclosure requirement can be quite long (18 months to 2 years or more), depending on the political climate and the calendar of the city council or state legislature.
High, though the successful implementation of this strategy is dependent on legislative approval, which is difficult to predict. Building the support of community-based organizations, tenants, and others concerned about lead poisoning, such as pediatricians, will help achieve passage.
Landlords, property management companies, and real estate agents may oppose this legislation. In addition, other agencies that need to be involved, such as inspection, code, building, and judicial agencies, may be resistant to taking on what they view as new responsibilities.
- Contacts for Cases Not Illustrated
Illinois: Gary Flentge, Illinois Lead and Asbestos Director, 217-782-3517, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paterson, NJ: Joe Surowiec, Lead Program Coordinator, 973-321-1277, ext. 277.
Philadelphia: Dick Tobin, 215-685-
http://www.afhh.org/res/res_pubs/disclosure_model_law.pdf - Alliance for Healthy Homes, Model State/Local Lead Disclosure Law, 2003.
http://www.afhh.org/res/res_pubs/disclosure_State%20_Local_Laws.pdf - Alliance for Healthy Homes, State and Local Lead Hazard Disclosure Laws, 2003.
http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/disclosurerule/index.cfm - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website
- Illinois Disclosure Law: 410 ILL. COMP. STAT. 45/9.1
- Massachusetts Disclosure Law: MASS. GEN. LAWS. ch. 111, § 197A
- Rhode Island Disclosure Law: R.I. GEN. LAWS § 23-24.6-16
- Paterson, NJ Disclosure Law: PATERSON, N.J. CODE, § 351-3 to -9
- Philadelphia, PA Disclosure Law: PHILADELPHIA, PA., HEALTH CODE § 6-803
- Vermont Disclosure Law: VSA TITLE 18, CH 38, § 176 2
ILLUSTRATION OF STRATEGY IN PRACTICE
In August 2004, the Cleveland City Council passed a new lead-based paint ordinance which, among other important provisions, establishes city lead hazard disclosure requirements and penalties. The ordinance gives the Cleveland Department of Public Health authority to pursue criminal penalties (up to $5,000 per violation) against property owners who fail to distribute the EPA lead hazard information pamphlet, disclose the known presence and location of any lead-based paint or hazard, or fulfill other duties under the federal lead hazard disclosure law.
Jurisdiction or Target Area
Cleveland Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP)
It is estimated that approximately 1 FTE was needed over 12-18 months to conduct background research on other state and local lead laws; draft the legislation; build political support for the new law (including meetings with the Mayor and housing officials); and see it through the legislative process. The director of the CLPPP and a lawyer in the Law Department were the two primary staff who worked on the legislation. The staffing pattern to implement this local disclosure law has not been determined.
Other resources utilized
The program conducted research to review other state and local lead poisoning prevention laws and to survey HUD grantees to learn how they handle properties. The program used the Wisconsin law as a model.
Factors essential to implementation
Political support for the law was essential to its passage. In this case, the Mayor’s support of the ordinance assured the support of the Housing Director and Housing Commissioner, both of whom are effective and influential.
The actual implementation and enforcement of the law will depend on having adequate resources and effective communication and coordination between the health and housing departments.
Magnitude of Impact/Potential Impact
There are 178,000 homes in Cleveland built before 1978 that will be affected by the disclosure law. Of those, it is estimated that 120,000 (60%) contain lead hazards and would be candidates for enforcement.
Potential for Replication
Contact for Specific Information
References for additional information