I wrote an earlier post that discussed how Lancaster City deals with lead in City properties, but this article is meant to deal specifically with rental properties. The same potential safety issues exist for owner-occupied homes as well as rental properties; however, Lancaster City’s lead ordinance has some special language pertaining to rentals. For agents that deal with older homes in the City, it is important to be aware of the ordinance requirements, especially if the buyer is purchasing the home to use as a rental.
As noted in the earlier post, lead is a naturally occurring element; and it can be toxic when taken into the body through breathing, eating or drinking. Lead is most dangerous to children, especially those under six years old. Nearly 500,000 children living in the United States have blood lead levels exceeding 10 micrograms per deciliter, a level at which adverse health effects are known to occur. Lead poisoning can affect virtually every body system — it can damage a child’s central nervous system, kidneys and reproductive system. At high levels, lead can cause coma, convulsions and death. Even low levels of lead in your children’s blood can be harmful and can result in decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased stature and growth and impaired hearing. Because childhood lead poisoning often has no distinctive clinical symptoms, it can go unrecognized. Once lead enters the body, it accumulates and remains there forever.
The most significant sources of lead exposure for U.S. children are deteriorated lead-based paint and dust contaminated with lead. Decades ago lead was a commonly used additive to paint. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978, but about 85 percent of U.S. housing was built before the ban. Young children who live in older houses with deteriorating paint may eat paint chips that contain lead or ingest or breathe lead-contaminated dust from floors, carpeting or their toys. Since the exterior of houses may also have been painted with lead-based paint, children could be exposed to lead in the soil when they play outdoors. Other sources of lead poisoning include those related to hobbies (e.g., making stained-glass windows) or work (e.g., recycling or making automobile batteries) as well as homes with either lead pipes or homes with copper pipes that were assembled with lead-based solder.
No owner shall enter into a new tenant lease to rent any “targeted housing dwelling” unless 1) he provides the tenant with a valid Lead Safe Certification prepared by a Lead-Based Paint Risk Assessor stating that the property is either lead free or lead safe, and 2) the tenant acknowledges receipt of the certification by signing a copy. Lease renewals are exempt from the above requirement.
When a new lease is entered into, the property owner must provide a copy of the Lead Safe Certification to the City Code Compliance and Inspection Office and provide the tenant with a written notification advising the tenant to perform a visual inspection of all painted surfaces periodically during their lease period. The tenant may inform the owner of any cracked, flaking or other deteriorated painted surfaces. If notified, the owner shall promptly inspect and address any deteriorated paint issues.
If a tenant in a pre-1978 home has a child who has an elevated blood level exceeding the DCD blood lead level of concern (5 micrograms per deciliter), the tenant shall be entitled to abate rent payment until the original dwelling is considered safe, shall be entitled to terminate their lease and receive their security deposit back within 30 days of receiving notice of the child’s elevated blood level. Tenants are also required to cooperate with the property owner, all City Departments and all contractors associated with the owner’s actions to obtain Lead Safe Certification.
Dwellings built after 1978 are exempt from the ordinance as well as dwellings for the elderly or disabled, college students, dwellings owned by the Lancaster City Housing Authority or dwellings where children aged six and under do not reside.
According to the ordinance, the Lead Safe Certification form shall be submitted to Lancaster City based on an inspection “at turnover of the dwelling or dwelling unit to a new tenant. The Lead Safe Certification must be based on a Clearance Examination completed at turnover of the dwelling or a Clearance Examination completed no more than 24 months prior to the date a new lease is entered into.”
The ordinance also states “in areas where the deteriorated paint is less than 10 percent of the total component or less than 20 square feet on exterior surfaces, and less than two square feet in any one interior room, clearance testing is not required; however, lead-safe work practices must be followed when repairing the poor condition of the paint in these areas. The City’s square-foot calculation shall be the sole factor in determining whether the exception to abatement is authorized pursuant to this section.”
The full text of the ordinance can be found here. For any specific questions about lead, the ordinance, etc., please contact the City of Lancaster.
Matthew Steger, ACI, WIN Home Inspection
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