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EPA Proposes Fine Against Former Maine Landlord For Lead Paint Disclosure Violations

Release Date: 09/02/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it is seeking a $5,720 penalty against a former Maine landlord for failing to notify tenants about potential health threats from lead paint.

According to EPA's complaint, Jason Dresser of South Portland violated federal laws by failing to provide information on potential lead paint hazards to tenants who rented a property in 2001 that he owned in Westbrook, Maine. The case was initiated after the state of Maine carried out an inspection after two children living in the rental unit were hospitalized, with tests showing high levels of lead in their blood.

The case is among a half-dozen lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA's New England Office has taken since launching a region-wide initiative to make sure landlords and property owners and managers are complying with federal lead disclosure laws. The initiative has included more than 100 inspections around New England, as well as compliance assistance workshops.

Today's announcement comes several weeks after EPA proposed a $57,530 penalty against the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for failing to properly inform tenants about lead hazards at employee housing provided by the department. One of the VA housing facilities was in Togus, Maine.

"Everyone who rents or sells property needs to be aware of their responsibilities to make sure renters and buyers are informed about lead hazards," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Lead poisoning can cause a lifetime of problems for children. We should all be doing our part to reduce the problem in New England.''

Varney emphasized that Dresser, a first-time landlord, was not aware of the lead hazards when he bought the three-unit property building. After inspections in 2001 revealed the presence of lead- containing paint in the building, Dresser immediately took steps to abate the lead hazard and it is now considered lead-safe. He has since sold the property and does not own any other rental property.

Low-level lead poisoning is widespread among American children, affecting as many as three million children under the age of six, with lead paint the primary cause. Elevated lead levels can trigger learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and even brain damage.

Federal law requires that sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978 must:

    • provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet, "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home";
    • include lead notification language in sales and rental forms;
    • disclose any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the living unit and provide available reports to prospective buyers or renters, prior to signing purchase and sale contracts and lease documents;
    • allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers;
    • maintain records certifying compliance with federal laws for a period of three years.
Sellers, lessors, real estate agents and property managers all share responsibility for such compliance.