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Salem, Mass. Housing Authority Faces Fines for Failure to Disclose Lead Paint Hazards to Tenants
Release Date: 07/06/2006
Contact Information: Sheryl Rosner, (617) 918-1865
(Boston, Mass. – July 6, 2006) – The Salem Housing Authority, a public housing agency that owns and manages approximately 715 low-income housing units in Salem, Mass., may pay a significant penalty for violations of federal lead paint disclosure laws. These laws are aimed at protecting young children from the risk of exposure to hazards from lead paint.
Under an administrative complaint issued last week, EPA claims that the Salem Housing Authority violated several federal Lead Disclosure Rule requirements at 14 of its residential units, by failing to disclose information about the existence of lead paint and lead paint hazards to tenants who rented apartments between April 2002 and October 2005. EPA is seeking penalties up to $11,000 for each violation claimed in the Agency’s complaint.
"Lead poisoning is a serious health threat for children in New England, because so much of our housing is older and may contain lead paint," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "Public housing authorities are charged with providing affordable and safe housing for low-income residents – it is important that housing agencies take the utmost care to inform residents of potential lead paint hazards when providing housing to families with young children."
According to records available to EPA, the Salem Housing Authority properties include 211 housing units for families. Lead paint inspections conducted in the 1990’s revealed the presence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the properties cited in EPA’s complaint. The complaint alleges that this information had not been provided to prospective tenants prior to lease signing, in violation of federal law. Young children resided at most of the units where violations were found.
Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, which can cause intelligence quotient deficiencies; reading and learning disabilities; impaired hearing; reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems. Adults with high lead levels can suffer difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory problems and muscle and joint pain.
This case is among dozens of lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken as part of a collaborative effort between federal, state and municipal agencies and grassroots organizations to make sure property owners, property managers and real estate agents are complying with federal lead disclosure laws. EPA has conducted hundreds of inspections in New England, and, in collaboration with its partners, has conducted numerous compliance assistance workshops.
The purpose of the Lead Disclosure Rule is to provide residential renters and purchasers of pre-1978 housing with enough information about lead-based paint in general and known lead-based paint hazards in specific housing, so that they can make informed decisions about whether to lease or purchase the housing.
Federal law requires that sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978 to:
- Provide a lead hazard information pamphlet to inform renters and buyers about the dangers associated with lead paint;
- 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.
More EPA information on lead paint health hazards (epa.gov/ne/eco/ne_lead/index.html)
More information on the lead-based paint disclosure rule (epa.gov/ne/enforcement/leadpaint/index.html)
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