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Large Boston Real Estate Corporation Charged With Failing to Warn Tenants About Lead Paint in Mass. and Conn.

Release Date: 07/15/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, 617-918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – July 15, 2008) - A large Massachusetts-based real estate corporation and nearly two dozen associated entities may be subject to a multi-million dollar penalty for repeatedly violating federal lead paint disclosure laws at properties they own or rent in eleven communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

An EPA complaint cites The Community Builders, Inc. (TCB) and 23 associated property owners for more than 800 violations of the federal Lead Disclosure Rule when they failed to disclose information about lead paint to people who leased apartments between 2003 and 2006. TCB, based in Boston, develops, finances, and operates mixed-income housing, and manages over 90 developments containing about 8,750 housing units in numerous cities in the eastern half of the U.S.

Federal law requires that landlords and property owners notify prospective tenants or purchasers about the potential for lead paint hazards in residential properties. Notifying prospective tenants about potential lead paint hazards in housing helps parents protect young children from ingesting lead.

"Exposure to lead paint is a serious public health concern for children in New England, because much of our housing was built before 1978 when use of lead paint was banned," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Property managers and owners play an important part in helping to prevent lead poisoning by following lead paint disclosure requirements and making sure families are aware of potential lead hazards in homes."

EPA’s complaint cites TCB and its associated property owners for 839 violations of the disclosure requirements. The alleged violations occurred at TCB-managed housing in New Haven and Vernon, Conn., and the following Massachusetts communities: Boston, Fall River, Gloucester, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lexington, Springfield, Westfield and Worcester.

Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, which can cause intelligence quotient deficiencies; reading and learning disabilities; impaired hearing; reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems. Adults with high lead levels can suffer difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory problems and muscle and joint pain.

Information available to EPA does not indicate that any children were lead poisoned as a result of these violations, but some of the properties listed in the complaint are known to contain lead-based paint. TCB and the property owners face penalties of up to $11,000 for each violation cited in the complaint.

EPA’s complaint alleges that TCB and the property owners failed to inform numerous tenants of known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in apartments and failed to provide information and records about the lead-based paint to those tenants. Further, TCB and the property owners failed to provide tenants with copies of an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet or the Massachusetts Tenant Lead Law Notification.

The purpose of the Lead Disclosure Rule is to provide residential renters and purchasers of pre-1978 housing with enough information about lead-based paint in general and known lead-based paint hazards in specific housing, so that they can make informed decisions about whether to lease or purchase the housing.

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

- Provide a lead hazard information pamphlet to inform renters and buyers about the dangers associated with lead paint;
- 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 buyers or renters;
- Allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers; and
- Maintain records certifying compliance with federal laws for a period of three years.

This case is one of the largest among dozens of lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken as part of a collaborative effort between federal, state and municipal agencies and grassroots organizations to make sure property owners, property managers and real estate agents are complying with federal lead disclosure laws.

EPA has conducted hundreds of inspections in New England, and, in collaboration with its partners, has conducted many compliance assistance workshops in the region for realtors, property managers and legal counsel.

More information:

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Lead paint health hazards (epa.gov/ne/eco/ne_lead/index.html)

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Lead-based paint disclosure rule (epa.gov/ne/enforcement/leadpaint/index.html)