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EPA Files Complaints Against Three Major Rhode Island Property Owners for Failing to Warn Buyers and Tenants About Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing
Release Date: 04/30/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008
For Immediate Release: April 30, 2004; Release # 04-04-37
BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Office today announced eight enforcement actions, seeking up to $730,000 in civil penalties, against three large Rhode Island property owners for violations of federal lead-paint disclosure rules involving dozens of houses and apartments in Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and several other Rhode Island communities.
The complaints, filed this month, involve Topik Enterprises LLC and Lead and Asbestos Encasement Designs (LAED) LLC, companies owned by Woonsocket landlord Roy S. Topik, which are accused of renting numerous apartments in Woonsocket without informing tenants of potential lead paint hazards; and real estate investors Patrick T. Conley and Norman Reisch who are accused of selling numerous homes in Providence, Pawtucket and several other communities without required warnings of potential lead paint hazards in the buildings.
Nearly all of the violations took place in low-income and minority neighborhoods and many involved buildings occupied by families with young children. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure which can cause learning disabilities, adverse neurological development, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and even brain damage.
“Given that childhood lead poisoning is a major public health problem in Rhode Island, it’s unacceptable that these property owners were keeping tenants and buyers in the dark about potential lead paint hazards in their buildings,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Property owners and real estate agents have an important role in preventing this problem and need to follow all federal lead-paint disclosure requirements. EPA’s enforcement staff will continue to be on a close lookout to make sure landlords and other property owners across New England are meeting their disclosure obligations.”
The cases are among dozens of 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 175 inspections around New England, as well as compliance assistance workshops.
Among the most important requirements of the lead disclosure rule is that property owners and realtors provide prospective tenants and buyers – before they buy or rent a property – with an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home. The pamphlet provides important information about lead exposure from paint, dust and soil. It highlights health risks that can be caused by lead exposure and it offers simple suggestions to guard against exposure and potential lead poisoning.
The complaints, many of which were initiated at the request of the RI Department of Health and the RI Attorney General’s Office, include alleged violations between 1997 and 2003. Among those:
Topik Enterprises and LAED, both based in Rhode Island and operated by Roy S. Topik, are accused of violating the lead paint disclosure rule on numerous occasions in 2001 and 2002 at their rental properties in Woonsocket. Topik Enterprises owns or formerly owned 71 rental units in Woonsocket; LAED owns or formerly owned 42 rental units in Woonsocket.
LAED, which faces a proposed penalty of $152,460, is cited for failing to provide 19 tenants with the EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet. LAED is also cited for failing to provide written warnings about the known presence of lead-paint hazards in one apartment and records and reports regarding those hazards to a tenant. Topik Enterprises, which faces a proposed penalty of $90,200, is cited for failing to provide EPA’s lead hazard pamphlet to 19 prospective tenants.
EPA initiated the investigations against the two companies after the Health Department issued notices of violation and the Attorney General’s Office filed suit and obtained consent orders directing the two companies to clean up four of their properties after finding lead paint hazards. The four abatement orders came after the Health Department inspected the properties after receiving reports of significantly lead poisoned children at the properties.
Patrick T. Conley and three of his companies, Options Realty LLC, Skybox Realty RIPG and Sedona Associates, are accused in four civil complaints of violating the federal lead disclosure rule in the sale of six residential properties in Central Falls, Providence and Narragansett between 2000 and 2002. The total proposed penalty against the four entities is up to $157,520. Specifically, Conley and his companies are cited for failing to provide purchasers with lead warning statements and lead hazard information pamphlets and for failing to disclose whether they had knowledge and records or reports pertaining to potential lead-based paint hazards.
Norman Reisch and two of his companies in Cranston, Juris Realty Associates and the 146 Corp., are accused in three civil complaints of violating the federal lead disclosure rule in five transactions involving properties in Providence, Warwick and Pawtucket between 1999 and 2000. Two of the transactions involved children between the ages of 6 and 18 and one involved a child under 6. In at least one instance, Reisch had knowledge of an outstanding lead abatement order and failed to disclose the related lead-based paint records to a family with three small children. Reisch and the companies face proposed penalties of up to $330,100.
Rules established under the1992 Federal Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act require property owners to inform renters and prospective purchasers that a residence built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards. Additionally, any specific information pertaining to lead paint in the residence must be provided to the prospective home buyer or tenant. The law makes clear that property managers, agents, lessors and sellers are all responsible for complying with this rule. They also must keep documentation of the disclosure actions for at least three years.
For more information on the federal lead-based paint disclosure rule, visit the agency’s web site at www.epa.gov/ne/enforcement/leadpaint/index.html