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HUD and EPA Settle Case Against Massachusetts-based Landlord – 10,000 Apartments in Seven States and D.C. to Become Lead Safe Agreement covers more than 7,000 apartments in Massachusetts
Release Date: 11/22/2004
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
For immediate release Monday, November 22, 2004;
Press Release # dd-04-11-07
HUD: Kristine Foye (617) 994-8218
EPA: Sheryl Rosner (617) 918-1865
Mass. AG: Sarah Nathan (617) 727-2543;
WASHINGTON – In one of the largest enforcement actions of its kind, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a Boston-based real estate company has agreed to remove lead paint hazards from approximately 10,400 apartments in seven states and the District of Columbia, and to pay a monetary penalty. HUD and EPA claims the company failed to notify its tenants that their homes may contain potentially dangerous amounts of lead. The apartments that will be made lead-safe under this agreement are located in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Virginia and the District of Columbia. More than 7,000 apartments are located in Massachusetts alone.
WinnResidential Limited Partnership and its affiliates own and manage more than 235 housing projects across the country. The Company agreed to pay a $105,000 civil monetary penalty and the company has further agreed to test for and clean up all existing lead-based paint hazards in its units. EPA estimates that the cost of lead abatement projects associated with this settlement are likely to be as high as $3.7 million.
“Today’s settlement should remind landlords that they have a legal responsibility to tell their tenants if their homes may harm their children,” said Miniard Culpepper, HUD’s Acting Regional Director for New England. “This agreement will not only create thousands of healthier homes and but will give families the peace of mind to raise their kids without fear of lead poisoning.”
In 2001, there were approximately 1,100 children in Boston alone with elevated blood lead levels. The majority of cases are in the City’s lower-income, most diverse neighborhoods.
“Lead poisoning is a serious health threat for children in New England and around the country,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. “This agreement shows that those of us charged with protecting young children, and our most sensitive populations from lead poisoning, are serious about our jobs. We plan to continue to enforce lead disclosure laws until we reach our goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning.”
“Despite the fact that so much can be done to keep kids safe from lead paint, too many are still poisoned in their own homes,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly. “This agreement sets the standard for the property management industry and sends the message that, through collaboration, we can make significant strides to protect our children from harm.”
Since 2001, Reilly who has been working closely with HUD and EPA, as well as the state Department of Public Health, reached two agreements with Winn addressing environmental and civil rights issues. The first, filed by his Environmental Protection Division, mirrors the national settlement and requires the company, to comply with the state’s lead law. The second, negotiated by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, requires the company to put detailed policy and procedures in place to prevent discrimination against families with children under the age of six, who are most vulnerable to lead paint poisoning.
Background on Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992:
HUD and EPA claim Winn violated the disclosure requirements of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. The law requires sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978:
- To provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home;
- To include lead notification language in sales and rental forms;
- To disclose any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the unit and common areas;
- To supply available records and reports regarding lead-based paint to prospective buyers or renters, prior to signing purchase and sale contracts and lease agreements; and,
- To offer homebuyers an opportunity to test for lead-based paint hazards in the unit.
Background on Health Effects of Lead-Based Paint:
Lead exposure causes reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, impaired hearing and a host of other health problems in young children. Children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning because their hand-to-mouth activities allows them to ingest lead dust, the most common exposure pathway into the body. Studies indicate that low-income, inner-city children suffer disproportionately from elevated blood-lead levels because they live in older, distressed housing with deteriorated paint and high levels of lead dust. Nearly 450,000 of the nation's 22 million children under the age of six have blood-lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate and learn.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels has been cut in half since the early 1990's, although the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in low-income, unassisted older housing remains high. In fact, one in six low-income children living in older housing is believed to be lead poisoned. HUD estimates that the number of houses with lead paint has declined from 64 million in 1990 to 38 million in 2000. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated.
For more information on lead paint disclosure requirements and other issues regarding lead, visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/disclosurerule/index.cfm or www.epa.gov/ne/topics/pollutants/lead.html.
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