June is National Healthy Homes Month. This year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is focused on protecting current and future generations of children from exposure to lead-based paint hazards in older homes.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson kicked off the month at a housing and health symposium at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro where he announced Protect our Kids! – a Department-wide enforcement campaign to get landlords and sellers of older homes to fulfill their responsibilities to disclose lead-based paint hazards in their properties. The campaign will also work on ensuring that all federally assisted homes are lead-safe.
“While lead poisoning is entirely preventable, we continue to see far too many children being exposed to lead hazards in their own homes,” said Secretary Carson. “All of us have a responsibility to protect kids, and that includes those who rent or sell older homes that may contain potentially harmful lead.”
HUD’s Protect our Kids! lead safety rules enforcement campaign is a combined effort by multiple enforcement and program offices at the Department, including HUD’s Office of General Counsel (OGC); Departmental Enforcement Center (DEC); Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (Healthy Homes); Office of the Inspector General (OIG); Office of Public and Indian Housing; Real Estate Assessment Center; and the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs. The objective of the campaign is to review and ensure compliance with regulations that are intended to reduce the potential of lead poisoning in children, in both privately owned homes and those receiving federal assistance.
- Under HUD and EPA’s Lead Disclosure Rule, most landlords and sellers of homes built before 1978 are required to inform tenants and purchasers of any known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.
- HUD’s Lead-Safe Housing Rule requires providers of most pre-1978 housing that is federally owned or receiving Federal assistance to make certain their units are lead safe.
As part of the Protect our Kids! campaign, HUD is taking several actions to ensure compliance with these rules:
- Alexander County (IL) Housing Authority (ACHA) – HUD brought actions against two former Executive Directors of ACHA in Cairo, Illinois for failure to comply with obligations under the Lead Safe Housing Rule. During their respective tenures as Executive Director, ACHA failed to undertake the necessary steps to monitor known lead-based paint hazards in its developments and falsely certified to HUD that they had done so. HUD is seeking to exclude through debarment the former Executive Directors from future participation with the Federal government and to impose civil penalties.
- First King Properties, LLC (Newark, New Jersey) – HUD issued a Pre-penalty notice to the owners and managers of Garden Spires Apartments, a 350-unit HUD-assisted housing complex in Newark, New Jersey, informing them that they could be liable for millions of dollars in penalties for failing to comply with HUD’s Lead Safe Housing Rule and Lead Disclosure Rule. HUD alleges that, even though they knew their property contained lead-based paint, they failed to disclose its presence to tenants. HUD also alleges that hazardous physical conditions identified by HUD inspectors were not corrected by the owners or managers. In addition, HUD alleges the owners and managers failed to conduct the necessary risk assessment reevaluations of lead-based paint hazards that should have been conducted at least as far back as 2011, until October 2017.
- Towns of Westville and Chateaugay, New York – Following investigations into the violations of the Lead Safe Housing Rule, HUD reached a $25,000 settlement with the Town of Westville and a $40,000 settlement with the Town of Chateaugay. The towns used Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to rehabilitate the homes of 39 low- and moderate-income households. The Lead Safe Housing Rule requires that a certified lead-based paint professional determine if lead-based paint will be disturbed in any pre-1978 property rehabilitated with CDBG funds and for the rehabilitation work to include controlling any lead-based paint hazards. However, neither town used a certified lead-based paint inspector or risk assessor during these rehabilitations, and both failed to ensure that the individual compensated with CDBG funds performed any lead inspection or controlled any lead-based paint hazards.
- Bergman Rentals (Durham, North Carolina) – Bergman Rentals manages about 245 properties in North Carolina, approximately half of which are owned by Lee Ray Bergman LLC and half by Southern Repair Services. About 20 of these properties are assisted through HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. Based on its examination of lease agreements, HUD determined that many leases had missing or incomplete lead disclosure forms, or the disclosure forms were dated well after execution of the lease. HUD issued a Pre-penalty notice to the owners notifying them of monetary penalties unless they reach an acceptable settlement to resolve these complaints.
- Bissette Realty (Wilson, North Carolina) –Bissette Realty manages more than 87 housing units in North Carolina. After learning about the presence of lead-based paint hazards in multiple properties, HUD reviewed the leases and found they were missing required lead disclosure forms, contained incomplete forms that did not disclose the presence of hazards to the tenants, or forms were dated well after execution of the lease. HUD sent a Pre-Penalty notice to the owner of Bissette, indicating the potential for monetary penalties unless they reach an acceptable settlement to resolve these complaints.
- Andrew and Cynthia Dunham (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) – The Dunhams own and manage about 23 single family properties in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that were built prior to 1978. HUD discovered that despite their knowing that lead-based paint hazards were present at one of their properties, the Dunhams did not provide the tenants in any of their pre-1978 properties with the required lead disclosure forms until after HUD’s initial contact. HUD sent a Pre-penalty notice to the Dunhams seeking to resolve the issue to avoid potential monetary penalties unless they reach an acceptable settlement to resolve these complaints.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, fatigue and irritability. Children who are lead poisoned may show no symptoms.
HUD estimates that nearly 30 million homes in the Unites States have indoor environmental hazards such as lead-based paint, mold, pests, water leaks, and many others. The Department’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes promotes local efforts to eliminate dangerous lead paint and other housing-related health hazards from lower- and moderate-income homes; stimulates private sector investment in lead hazard control; supports cutting-edge research on methods for assessing and controlling housing-related health and safety hazards; and educates the public about the dangers of hazards in the home.