5 Myths About Deleading
In this blog, I discuss common myths/objections about deleading rental properties.
It happens often enough that we have properties where the owner is concerned about having to meet deleading requirements. We hear comments such as, “No families,” or “No Section 8,” or “No kids.” On their own, these are violations of fair housing laws. My experience is this is a reaction from rental property owners who have not had anyone take the time to talk through why they are making these statements. An overview of the state requirements can be found at Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Caveat: I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. It’s meant to share resources about deleading in the rental market.
Myth #1: My house was built in 19xx. It has lots of lead paint
Many property owners believe deleading their home will be expensive – this may not be the case. We sometimes hear stories about needing to replace a large number of custom leaded windows. We haven’t experienced these situations. One cannot tell if the paint is lead paint or not by looking at it. The only way to be sure about the presence of lead paint is to hire a licensed inspector. They can do a walkthrough of your home and let you know what they’ve found. Out of 5 or 6 projects this year, we did not find extensive lead based paint in any of the units. One place you may want to check before investing in an inspection is the Massachusetts Lead Safe Homes database – a database to check if your property has a history of violations found or compliance.
Myth #2: Deleading will be expensive
Gone are the stories of the 1980s. Government came to understand the huge costs involved and have become more reasonable in requiring what work to be done while also making grants available to defray expenses. Property owners can either completely remove or cover all of the lead hazards or address only the urgent hazards while controlling the remaining hazards. These carry different requirements from the state; it’s best to talk specifically about your situation with a professional. Quotes for deleading can range wildly; project costs of bringing properties into compliance this year ranged from $800 to $2500. Financial assistance may be available from the state or city where your property is located.
Myth #3: I don’t need to delead; I’ll just have the family sign the lead transfer notification
As property managers, we are legally required to give the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification to every person who rents a house built prior to 1978. It answers many questions people have about complying with lead laws. It clearly explains:
- A home built before 1978 with children under six living in it must be lead free.
- This applies to both privately owned homes and rental units.
- A parent cannot sign away the child’s right to live in a lead free home.
In fact, the property owner, any agents involved, and the parent can be held liable if a child is found to have lead poisoning and lived in a home that was not deleaded.
Myth #4: I can just choose not to rent to families with children
This violates a few areas of Massachusetts Fair Housing Law; namely that it’s illegal to refuse discriminate on the basis of age or children (among others). There have been quite a few expensive court cases around this law that has been in effect in one form or another for nearly 40 years:
- Housing Providers Resolve Alleged Lead Paint Violations and Discrimination Against Families with Children
- Boston Area Landlord to Pay $75,000 and Delead Units to Resolve Fair Housing Lawsuit
A frequent question is what must be done if a prospective tenant with a child under the age of six applies to rent the property. First, the same application process must be used for this tenant as for any other tenant. It’s best if your process is documented. If the tenant meets the criteria for acceptance, you are have 30 days to ensure the rental complies with state lead laws.
Myth #5: I won’t get caught
I knew a landlord who owned a three family in Jamaica Plain. He had a vacancy and advertised it on Craigslist. He received a bunch of calls. He was worried because the unit was not deleaded. He especially liked a professional couple who called – he responded right back and followed up diligently. The same with another couple who called – until he showed the unit and learned they had a young child. Then he didn’t follow up as often. A single parent called and he decided not to return her call. Then he got a notice from Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. All three of these parties were testers looking for discrimination practices. The landlord was required to take fair housing training, delead his building, and to have all applications for his vacancies reviewed for the next three years.
If you’re still questioning about deleading your property, take some time to think about the intent of the program. Removing an unsafe condition from a home makes sense like wearing a seatbelt. While most people were probably around lead based paint growing up (and grew up fine), this is still a risk for young children who don’t know better. The lifelong effects of lead poisoning can be devastating.
Call our office if you have specific questions that you’d like to discuss further.