Protect your Home and your Family from the Dangers of Lead

The Mortgage Buddy would like to welcome guest blogger John A. Saari to the site. Mr. Saari has spent his whole working life in the various fields of construction management, development, and architecture. In John’s line of work it’s imperative that he is up to date on all of the federal and Massachusetts building codes and housing laws. In this article John discusses the importance of knowing the lead laws so you can better protect your family and your investment.

As a Housing Rehabilitation Specialist consulting to Cities and Non-profit Organizations in Massachusetts I am constantly confronted with Multi or Single Family properties that were built prior to 1978. Because of both Federal and Massachusetts State Lead Laws these properties must be inspected for Lead Paint Hazards. The compliance requirements differ between Federal and State Lead Laws but they are too numerous to cover in this short document.  This article will only address the Massachusetts Lead Law and how it affects Homeowners; Property owners and Tenants in Massachusetts. However, it is important to know there is a Federal Lead Law; the Federal Lead law affects all properties utilizing funds from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  More information about the Massachusetts Lead Law can be obtained calling the Division of Occupational Safety, Lead Program at 1-800-425-0004) or the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) at 1 – 800-532-9571; both are tool free numbers

What Does the Massachusetts Lead Law Require?

Lead PaintThe Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under six live. Lead paint hazards include loose lead paint and lead paint on windows and other surfaces accessible to children. Owners are responsible with complying with the law. This includes owners of rental property as well as owners living in their own single family home. Financial help is available through tax credits, grants and loans. 

How does an owner comply with the lead law?

  1. 1.      Have all lead hazards removed or covered. The owner must first hire a licensed lead inspector who will test the home for lead and record all lead hazards. After the work is approved by the licensed lead inspector and the State, the owner will receive a Letter of Full Compliance.
  2. 2.      Have only urgent lead hazards corrected, while controlling remaining hazards. This temporary method is called interim control. The owner must first hire a licensed risk assessor to review the Lead Inspection Report and explain to the owner what urgent lead hazards identified in the Lead Inspection Report need to be addressed by removal or covering in order to  achieve interim control. After the work is approved by the licensed lead inspector and the State, the owner will receive a Letter of Interim Control. Owners then have up to two years before they                                                          must have the remaining lead hazards removed or covered and receive a Letter of Full Compliance. 

Who can remove or cover lead hazards?

Some work must be done by a licensed de-leader. However, an owner or agent (someone working for an owner without a de-leader’s license) can perform some specific tasks. An owner or agent cannot begin any of those tasks until:

  1. 1.      The home is inspected by a licensed lead inspector
  2. 2.      The owner or agent is properly trained to perform the de-leading work

For more information about what work may be done by an owner or agent and how to become trained, call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 1-800-532-9571

Can a rental property owner be held liable for a lead poisoned child?

Yes. If a child is lead poisoned by lead hazards where the child lives, the owner is legally responsible. An owner cannot avoid liability by asking tenants to sign an agreement that they accept the presence of lead paint. Complying with the Lead Law is the best protection an owner has from liability.

lead paint


Can an owner evict or refuse to rent to a family with children under six if there is lead paint in the home?

No. An owner cannot evict or refuse to rent to anyone because or lead paint. Discrimination is against the law and carries penalties.

For more information against discrimination, call the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in Boston at (617) 727-3990 or Springfield at (413) 739-2145

Massachusetts Lead Law

Massachusetts enacted one of the nation’s first state lead poisoning prevention laws in 1971. The original statute embodied the principle of primary prevention, which remains at the heart of the current law. Since 1971, Massachusetts property owners are required to permanently control specified lead-based paint lead hazards in any housing unit in which a child under the age of six resides. The 1971 law provided for enforcement of this duty by both a newly-created state Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health and by local boards of health. In addition, the law enlisted the help of the tort system for enforcement by providing that property owners would be “strictly liable” for damages resulting from failure to make a child’s apartment lead-safe. (“Strict liability” means that owners are liable even if they didn’t know that lead-based paint hazards were present.)

The law was revised in 1987 in three ways. First, the amendments sought to improve the quality and safety of abatement work by requiring use of trained and licensedLead Paint contractors, relocation of occupants during abatement, and daily and final cleanup in units undergoing abatement.Second, the amendments were designed to substantially increase the number of units brought into compliance by providing financial assistance (a $1,000 state income tax credit and a grant/loan program) and mandating that prospective purchasers of residential premises receive notice about the lead law and have the opportunity to get an inspection.Finally, the amendments embraced the principle of universal blood lead screening, mandating that physicians screen children and that health insurers cover screening costs.

In 1993, the law was amended further still. Compliance costs were lowered by allowing owners to use interim controls for up to two years before permanently containing or abating lead-based paint hazards. Other cost-reducing provisions allowed the use of encapsulants and eased safety precautions when children would not be endangered. Owners were provided with a larger state income tax credit ($1,500/unit), and a new state fund was set up to provide funds for lead hazard control. Finally, owners who obtain certification from a licensed inspector that interim controls or abatement have been performed are no longer held strictly liable, and insurers are required to provide coverage for any negligence claims (short of gross or willful negligence) that may be brought against such owners.

John A. Saari
Housing Rehabilitation Consultant/ Construction Manager
Falmouth, MA 02540
Phone: (508) 274-1813
Fax: (508) 548-4445

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