On Tuesday, September 18, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) introduced a bill that protects District residents by strengthening laws around lead-based paint in rental units, which pose a unique health risk to young children and pregnant women.
The Lead Hazard and Elimination Amendment Act of 2018 requires landlords to provide all renters with evidence a rental property or unit is free of lead paint, or that measures have been taken to eliminate risks of exposure at the time of signing a lease. It requires landlords to make the same showing before receiving a license to rent a unit. It makes it easier for tenants themselves to take legal action against landlords who are not complying with the law.
Finally, the bill establishes a fund to assist landlords who need to make substantial improvements to a rental unit, recognizing the urgent need for safe rental units in the District’s housing supply.
“We need to give District residents, especially families, peace of mind and the protection of the law to know their home isn’t putting the health of their young children at risk. This bill raises the bar for what testing is required, strengthens the steps landlords must take to earn a lead-free or lead-safe certification, as well as what legal steps tenants can take to force remediation without waiting on the government,” said Councilmember Charles Allen.
The bill recognizes that in many homes throughout the District, tenants do not have any way to know if their unit has recently been tested and certified to be lead-based paint free or that appropriate steps have been taken to protect residents. The bill ensures that all District renters can rest assured that they are safe from exposure to lead-based paint.
A Washington Post article from August highlighted the heartbreaking health risks lead-based paint in older homes pose to children, noting especially it is a problem affecting families who have few options for decent housing.
The bill strengthens existing law in several ways:
- All tenants leasing a rental unit built before 1978 would need to receive a “clearance report,” which is provided as part of an examination by a certified inspector, including specific information on what areas were tested and any abatement and remediation steps taken;
- Strengthens steps required for abatement, including requiring the removal of all molding and baseboards in a unit built before 1978, because young children are more likely to bite and expose lead paint on molding that has merely been painted over;
- Reduces the acceptable levels of lead exposure, including requiring an examination of a unit if a blood test show a child under 6 living there to have any level of lead exposure;
- Allows tenants themselves to sue landlords who are not complying with the law or taking steps to abate lead-based paint, without having to rely on the government to inspect and take action;
- Re-establishes a fund run by the city to assist landlords with abatement and removal of lead-based paint to ensure District housing stock can return to availability.
“Children’s Law Center is dedicated to making sure children and families renting in the District are living in healthy, safe homes, and we know lead exposure permanently damages kids’ brains,” said Sharra Greer, Policy Director at Children’s Law Center.
“We are extremely pleased to work with Councilmember Allen, his staff, and experts on this groundbreaking legislation, which will make DC a national leader in preventing kids’ exposure to lead.”