Landlords Fight Plan for Yearly Lead Paint Inspections, Tenant Rent Abatements

landlord helpPhiladelphia’s City Council wants to get tough on lead paint exposure.  To do so, they are targeting landlords.

A new amendment to the existing lead paint disclosure requirements adds a costly layer of bureaucracy, prompting a local apartment association to put up a fight.

The amendment requires that every rental property built pre-1978 must be certified as either lead-free, or lead-safe.  By definition, the property is not lead-safe or lead-free if it was built before 1978 and the landlord cannot demonstrate there is not lead on any surface.

A property is deemed lead-safe if there are no current conditions that could cause lead poisoning.  Once a landlord obtains this rating, they must renew the certification every 12 months, except where an existing tenant renews the lease.

Each tenant must be given a disclosure of whether the property is lead-free or lead-safe at lease signing. Proof of the disclosure must be signed by the tenant, and a copy submitted to the city.   If this doesn’t happen, the consequences are dire:

The city will have the right to inspect the property, and charge the landlord the cost.

The tenant will have the right to go to court and force the landlord to have the inspection, and to eliminate any lead risks.

Meanwhile, the tenant will be entitled to a full rent abatement for the time they lived in the uncertified property, and the landlord cannot charge rent going forward until the inspection.

Additionally, the tenant is entitled to damages and attorneys fees.

According to the Apartment Association of Greater Philadelphia, it just doesn’t add up.

In a statement on its website, the Association claims this bill “only adds unnecessary, expensive requirements to the huge array of regulations already in place that have had enormous success in dramatically reducing the cases of children with elevated blood lead levels.” It is encouraging local landlords to contact city council representatives in the hopes of taking the legislation off the table.

The Association argues that tenants already have information they need to protect themselves, that they have the right to get out of a lease if lead is discovered, and new federal laws cover renovation, repairs or maintenance that might expose tenants to new risks of exposure.

“This bill will affect every rental unit in the City and drive up everyone’s costs, including low income renters, seniors, students and families,” according to the Association.  “Decent rental housing will be much more expensive and much harder to find.”

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