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EPA Fines Manchester, NH Realtor for Failure to Disclose Lead Paint Hazards

Release Date: 02/25/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has settled a complaint against a realty company, Senecal Properties of Manchester, N.H., for failing to properly notify home buyers and renters of risks from exposure to lead paint, as required by federal law. Senecal will pay a $2,500 fine to settle the case.

The settlement stems from an EPA complaint alleging that Senecal Properties in 1998 leased a rental unit in Manchester to a family with four children under the age of six without notifying them of the presence of lead in the unit or the existence of a lead abatement order from the state. (Senecal was ordered in 1997 to abate the property by the NH Department of Health and Human Services)

The complaint also states that Senecal sold the building without disclosing the presence of lead or the existence of the abatement order to the purchaser. Additionally, in five other lease transactions, Senecal failed to obtain the dates of lessees' signatures on a form acknowledging the lessor's disclosure of information about lead.

The case was carried out as a joint investigation by EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Lead poisoning is a very serious public health threat in New England, especially in cities such as Manchester where apartment buildings and housing tend to be older," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "This case shows that we're serious about making sure renters and buyers get the information they need to protect themselves and their children from lead paint."

This case is among a half-dozen lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken since launching an initiative to make sure landlords and property owners are complying with federal laws, which require them to notify tenants and prospective buyers of potential lead-paint hazards in their buildings. The initiative has included more than 80 inspections around New England as well as compliance assistance workshops.

Federal law requires that sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978 must: provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet; include lead notification language in sales and rental forms; disclose any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the living unit and provide available reports to buyers or renters; allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers; and maintain records certifying compliance with federal laws for a period of three years. Sellers, lessors, and real estate agents all share responsibility for such compliance.

Low-level lead poisoning is widespread among American children, affecting as many as three million children under the age of six, with lead paint the primary cause. In Manchester, NH alone, 173 of 2,238 children who were screened in 2001 – 7.7 percent – had elevated blood lead levels, according to the NH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. That's double the statewide rate of 3.8 percent.

Researchers have determined that children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, both because of a higher probability of ingestion of lead paint particles (including lead contaminated dust) and because of a higher degree of vulnerability. Elevated lead levels can trigger learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and even brain damage.

For more information on lead paint disclosure requirements and other issues regarding lead, visit the agency's web site at