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EPA Seeks $162K in First Cases Against Real Estate Companies that Violate Lead Paint Notification Requirements; Agency Targeting Units with Children Under Age Six

Release Date: 08/15/2001
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(#01099) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has cited three New York companies in an enforcement initiative to identify landlords, real estate managers, brokers and agents that do not provide potential renters or buyers with information about possible lead hazards in apartments and homes. EPA filed complaints against: 236 Cannon Realty, LLC., which owns four buildings in the Bronx consisting of a total of 236 units; Webb & Brooker, Inc., the manager of eight properties in northern Manhattan; and C.S.P. Management, an agent for the owner of 214 South Geneva Street in Ithaca, New York . The companies were charged with violating agency lead disclosure regulations when they signed contracts to rent out apartments in properties they owned, managed or served as agents for. EPA is particularly concerned that many of the renters that did not receive the required lead paint information had young children living with them. EPA is seeking penalties of $90,640, $66,000 and $5,500 from 236 Cannon Realty, Webb & Brooker and C.S.P. Management, respectively.

"Lead poisoning remains one of the most prevalent threats to children's well-being," said William J. Muszynski, Acting EPA Regional Administrator, "but it is also one of the most preventable. Under federal law, families have the right to know whether there are any potential lead-paint hazards in a prospective home, and must be informed about the harm lead can inflict on small children. Complying with the law is so simple and takes such minimal effort that landlords and their representatives have no excuse for not doing so. These cases should serve as a message to the real estate community that we are serious about enforcing lead laws to protect children."

EPA started inspecting real estate businesses in 1999 to determine whether they were following EPA lead disclosure requirements. These requirements were put in place after Congress passed the Residential Lead- Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, commonly known as "Title X". EPA requires that before any contract to sell or lease a residential property built prior to 1978 is finalized, sellers and landlords or their agents must disclose any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the home (or state that they have no knowledge of any hazards), and provide any available reports about the situation. Landlords or their agents must also give buyers and renters the pamphlet Free PDF reader availableProtect Your Family from Lead in Your Home by EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which details the hazards of lead. Any contract to rent housing that was built before 1978 must also include or have attached to it a lead warning statement that describes the landlord or agent' s responsibilities and the renters' rights.

EPA charged that 236 Cannon Realty did not provide necessary lead paint information to the tenants of at least 11 apartments at the time they signed leases. Three children under age six and seven children ages six to eighteen were living in those apartments. Webb & Brooker was charged with failing to provide lead paint information to the tenants of at least three apartments at 200 West 147th Street in Manhattan, despite the fact that apartment lease contracts signed by all three tenants indicated that a child under age six would be living there. C.S.P. Management of Ithaca was charged with failing to provide the information to one tenant, who alerted EPA to the problem by filing a complaint in 1999.

Lead poisoning is a top environmental health hazard for young children, affecting as many as 1.7 million youngsters. Adults exposed to high levels of lead, usually in the workplace, are also at risk. Although lead-based house paint has long been taken off the market, children living in older homes and apartments are threatened by chipping or peeling lead paint, or excessive amounts of lead-contaminated dust. More than 80% of homes built before 1978 contain lead paint. Even at low levels, lead poisoning in children can cause I.Q. deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and other behavior problems. Pregnant women poisoned by lead can transfer it to a fetus, resulting in adverse developmental effects.

In addition to these three complaints, since the beginning of 2000, EPA's New York regional office has issued 36 notices of non-compliance to real estate businesses for failing to follow federal lead disclosure requirements.