New Lead Paint Law Keeps MD Busy
Although three years in coming, a sweeping new lead paint law for Maryland landlords has unleashed an avalanche of inquiries to state environmental officials.
Effective Jan. 1, all residential rental properties built before 1978 must be registered and renewed annually. The registration cost is $30 per property.
In addition, those properties must have a new lead inspection certificate with each change of occupancy, showing that the lead risk has been abated.
The changes to Maryland's Lead Risk Reduction in Housing Act were passed during the 2012 legislative session. Previously, only properties built before 1950 had to be registered.
The law also applies to commercial buildings that have tenants. Unoccupied buildings must be registered and inspected before a tenant moves in.
The law also includes registration of newly purchased properties; requirements for tenant notification and education; risk-reduction mandates; and certification of lead-safe practices by workers and supervisors.
The lead inspection certificate, known as a Full Risk Reduction Certificate, must also be provided to a new tenant. Inspectors must be licensed. An inspection costs from $200 to $500, depending on the property and inspector, according to one property management firm.
What Lead Costs
Compliance may be costly, owners say, but lead litigation can be even costlier.
Maryland in general, and Baltimore in particular, have been at the epicenter of lead-paint litigation in the U.S., with a series of multimillion-dollar verdicts returned last fall over lead paint in Baltimore City rental properties.
Landlords elsewhere are also being called to account, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sanctioning an Illinois painting contractor for exposing his workers and the Environmental Protection Agency recently unloading enforcement cases against 62 companies nationwide for violations of the Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.
Despite the long rollout period, the new Maryland law is generating "a high volume of emails and calls," the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) reports on its website.
Still, officials say, owners who can document that they have posed a detailed query by phone or email can buy themselves some compliance time.
Maryland's new law applies to all residential properties built before 1978, including commercial properties with tenants. Unoccupied properties must be brought into compliance before occupancy.
Owners with questions may email the department or leave a voicemail at 410-537-4199 or 800-776-2706, choosing option 2.
"If you choose to leave a voice message, or send an email you will not be subject to penalties for failing to timely register for up to 30 days," the department says. However, those queries must include the following information:
Owners can expect "very high call volumes" for renewals and are reminded that renewals are now required by Dec. 31 of each year, no matter how late in the previous year the property was registered.