There are common myths/objections concerning deleading rental properties in Massachusetts. Many property owners are concerned about having to meet certain deleading requirements. Sometimes property owners even violate fair housing laws by saying families, Section 8 individuals, or kids are not allowed.
We strongly suggest that rental property owners take the time to understand why they are imposing these restrictions. For clarity, review the state requirements at Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Five Myths about Deleading Rental Properties in Massachusetts
Myth #1: All houses built before 1978 have lots of lead paint.
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, who can conduct a walkthrough of your property and report on what has been found. Out of five or six projects in 2014, we did not find extensive lead-based paint in any of our units. Before you invest in an inspection, it is wise to check the Massachusetts Lead Safe Homes database to find out if your property has a history of violations found or compliance. We have heard a few stories about replacing custom leaded windows, but we haven’t experienced this issue ourselves.
Myth #2: Deleading is prohibitively expensive.
Many property owners believe deleading their homes will be expensive; however, this may not be the case. Since the 1980s, government entities have become more reasonable in requiring what work must be done, while also making grants available to defray expenses. Property owners can now either completely remove or cover all of the lead hazards, or address only the urgent hazards while controlling the remaining hazards. These actions carry different requirements from the state, so it’s best to discuss your specific situation with a professional. Quotes for deleading can vary greatly: Project costs of bringing properties into compliance this year ranged from $800 to $2500. Make sure to inquire whether financial assistance is available from the state or city where your property is located.
Myth #3: If I have a family sign the lead transfer notification, I won’t need to delead.
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 questions about complying with lead laws, and 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 contracts lead poisoning from 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 the Massachusetts Fair Housing Law; namely that it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of age or children, among other factors. There have been numerous costly court cases involving this law, which 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
We are frequently asked about what do to 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. Always make sure your process is documented. If the tenant meets the criteria for acceptance, you have 30 days to ensure the rental complies with state lead laws.
Myth #5: I won’t get caught for discrimination practices.
There was a landlord who owned a three-family property in Jamaica Plain. He advertised a vacancy on Craigslist and received a number of calls. He was worried because the unit was not deleaded. He especially liked a professional couple who called and followed up diligently. He also showed the unit to another couple and learned they had a young child, and after that, he didn’t follow up so quickly. When a single parent called, he did not return her call.
He then got a notice from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. It turns out that all three of these parties were testers looking for discrimination practices. The landlord was then required to take fair housing training, delead his building, and required to have all applications for his vacancies reviewed for the next three years.
If you still have questions about deleading your property, think about the intent of the program. Removing an unsafe condition from a home is a safeguard in the same vein as wearing a seatbelt. While there are people who grew up around lead-based paint and were not affected, this does not mitigate the risk for young children today. The lifelong effects of lead poisoning can be devastating.
If you have specific questions and deleading rental properties in Massachusetts that you’d like to discuss further, call Real Property Management Boston at (617) 505-1235
Disclaimer: The information presented here is not to be considered legal advice. I am not a lawyer. This blog post is meant to be a resource about deleading rental properties in Massachusetts.