So Landlord…when was your rental property constructed? The answer to this question is important because most older homes — especially in historic and urban areas — contain some degree of lead-based paint. Lead paint is one of the most significant and widespread environmental hazards for children and pregnant women in Maryland. Children are at greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are developing. Sustained exposure to lead can cause long lasting neurological damage or death. Effects of sustained exposure include learning disabilities, shortened attention span, irritability, and lowered IQ. In older homes, children are exposed to lead through deteriorated, flaking, chipping lead paint and/or lead paint dust which is often inadvertently ingested (usually from hand to mouth). Elevated blood levels in pregnant women can lead to an increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, or low birth weight babies.
Maryland law requires the owner of a rental property built before 1950 (that means, YOU, Landlord) to do the following:
- Register each rental unit with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE);
- Distribute specific educational materials (Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home and Maryland’s Notice of Tenant’s Rights) to the tenants (Note: New notices and packets must be given to all tenants every two years. Notices and packets must be provided in a verifiable manner, such as by certified mail.); and,
- Meet specific lead paint risk reduction standards which include performing Full Risk Reduction Measures (lead hazard treatments) in the property and obtaining a Risk Reduction Certificate to give to the tenant prior to the tenant’s moving into the rental property.
In order for a rental property to obtain a Full Risk Reduction Certification, a landlord is required to have the property undergo a Dust Inspection, which must be conducted in a vacant unit prior to occupancy by a new tenant. An inspector accredited by the MDE must collect dust samples from each room in the unit. Each dust sample must be analyzed by a qualified laboratory, and the results must fall below specified levels. In general, testing for lead contaminated dust is most likely to be successful in a clean, well maintained property. Flaking or chalking lead paint on windows, in particular, may be an important source of lead dust in a unit.
If a tenant sends a written “Notice of Defect” to a landlord that there is chipping, peeling paint or that there is a child with elevated blood lead level in the property, the landlord must respond by performing Modified Risk Reduction Measures within 30 days after receiving the notice. Modified Risk Reduction Measures include having an MDE accredited inspector perform both a visual inspection and a dust inspection. If the tenant is required to leave the rental property for more than 24 hours while treatments are performed, the landlord must pay a tenant’s reasonable expenses for overnight housing and meals for the tenant and his/her family to stay in temporary lead-safe housing. All work performed to meet the lead hazard reduction standards, including cleaning, must be conducted by an MDE accredited contractor or supervisor. After all work has been completed, an MDE accredited Lead Paint Visual Inspector or Lead Paint Risk Assessor may verify that the necessary work has been satisfactorily completed and can then issue the proper certificate.
Landlord, you should note that it is illegal in Maryland for you to retaliate and evict a tenant primarily because the tenant or a housing inspector sends you a notice informing you that there are lead hazards in the property or that there is a child with an elevated blood lead level residing in the property.
If the Landlord fails to comply with applicable risk reduction standards and lead-based paint is found on any interior, exterior, or other surface of that landlord’s residential unit that is readily accessible to a child, a tenant may avail him/herself to the rent escrow remedies set forth in Section 8-211 of the Real Property Article of Maryland’s Annotated Code which provides:
§ 8-211.1. Failure of lessor to remove lead-based paint; rent escrow
(a) Right of lessee. — Notwithstanding any provision of law or any agreement, whether written or oral, if a landlord fails to comply with the applicable risk reduction standard under § 6-815 or § 6-819 of the Environment Article, the tenant may deposit the tenant’s rent in an escrow account with the clerk of the District Court for the district in which the premises are located.
(b) Other rights or remedies. — The right of a tenant to deposit rent in an escrow account does not preclude the tenant from pursuing any other right or remedy available to the tenant at law or equity and is in addition to them.
(c) Release of escrow account. — Money deposited in an escrow account shall be released under the following terms and conditions:
(1) To the lessor upon compliance by the lessor with the applicable risk reduction standard; or
(2) To the lessee or any other person who has complied with the applicable risk reduction standard on presentation of a bill for the reasonable costs of complying with the applicable risk reduction standard.
(d) No eviction. — A lessee may not be evicted, the tenancy may not be terminated, and the rent may not be raised for a lessee who elects to seek the remedies under this section. It shall be presumed that any attempt to evict the lessee, to terminate the tenancy, or to raise the rent, except for nonpayment of rent, within two months after compliance with the applicable risk reduction standard is in retaliation for the lessee’s proceeding under this section and shall be void.
(e) Preemption. — This section shall preempt any public local law or ordinance concerning the deposit of rent into an escrow account based upon the existence of paint containing lead pigment on surfaces in or on a rental dwelling unit in the State and disposition of that rent.
In addition to depositing the rent in an escrow account, a tenant may seek any other remedy available at law or equity.
For more information on Maryland’s lead paint requirements, please visit MDE’s Lead Line Website
Federal lead paint laws apply both to the sale and rental of properties constructed before 1978. Title X – The Federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires that a landlord renting a property built before 1978 and/or a seller of property built before 1978 disclose any lead paint hazards on the property before the lease or sale is final. Like Maryland, Federal law also requires sellers and landlords to give the tenant the Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home pamphlet explaining the dangers of lead-based paint hazards. In addition, The Federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act requires:
- Sellers and lessors must provide purchasers and lessees with any available records of reports pertaining to the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards;
- Sellers must provide purchasers with a 10-day opportunity to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards before the purchaser is obligated under any purchase contract;
- Sales and leasing contracts must include certain disclosure and acknowledgment language; and,
- Agents must ensure compliance with Title X’s requirements.
Note that some properties, i.e. vacation homes or short term rentals, are exempted from Title X’s requirements. For more information on Title X, please visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Website.