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Former Colorado Springs apartment owner fined for lead disclosure violation

Release Date: 12/12/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6905,

Release Date: 12/12/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303/312-6204,

Release Date: 12/12/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6603

      Denver -- A former apartment complex landlord in Colorado Springs agreed to pay $18,975 to settle a Federal lawsuit which claimed he failed to notify a tenant that her apartment might contain harmful lead-based paint, EPA officials reported today from their Denver regional office.

EPA’s action represents the first such complaint in its six-state region for failure to comply with the lead disclosure law. The Agency’s complaint against J.A.W. Properties owner Jack A Wodjalya contended his company did not properly disclose to a tenant potential lead hazards at the 149 unit property, located at 1610 N. Murray. Wodjalya sold the property in April 2000.

One former tenant had four children under six-years old during the time the family rented the apartment in 1997. She alerted EPA to the alleged violations after her children displayed symptoms of lead poisoning.

Lead exposure affects virtually every system of the body. It is harmful to all ages, but it’s especially damaging to children, fetuses and women of child-bearing age. In fact, lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat American children face. Health problems range from learning disabilities, decreased growth, behavioral difficulties, to permanent damage of the nervous system, impaired hearing and even brain damage. Young children, particularly those under six years old, are most vulnerable because their nervous systems are still developing. Pregnant women also are at considerable risk to the effects of lead poisoning, as lead can pass through their bodies to their unborn babies.

According to EPA, about 64 million U.S. homes are contaminated with paint containing high lead levels. To protect unsuspecting buyers or renters from the dangers posed by lead paint, EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) jointly issued a regulation known as the Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule. The rule, which became effective September 6, 1996, targets older dwellings built prior to 1978, when lead-based paint was routinely applied.

EPA and HUD have conducted extensive public awareness and information campaigns to educate the real estate community and others about the rule. “EPA wants home buyers to know the history of lead-based paint used in a home. If a property is rented, the people living in the home also must be aware of the potential presence of lead-based paint,” explained EPA Enforcement Director Carol Rushin. “This doesn't mean owners and landlords must remove the lead-based paint or void contracts. Our intention is to make sure people know whether lead is present and understand the risks associated with it.”

EPA has begun actively enforcing the disclosure rule which requires sellers, landlords and real estate agents to disclose the presence and location of known lead-based paint to purchasers and tenants of property built before 1978. If owners don’t know whether lead-based paint was used on their property, they still must inform prospective buyers and tenants that it may be present.

Home buyers may have 10-days to inspect housing units for the presence of lead-based paint prior to finalizing a purchase. All sales and leasing contracts must include specific lead-paint notification and acknowledgment language. The rule also requires property owners and landlords to provide renters/tenants with the EPA-approved lead-hazard information pamphlet: “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”.

After examining leasing, rental and sales contracts throughout the state, EPA found compliance with the rule is severely lacking. “So far, inspectors have reviewed files of many apartment and real estate agencies and found many of their records excluded proper lead-based paint disclosure forms,” said Rushin. “Considering that lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat American children face, this is particularly disturbing.” So far, the Agency has sent more than 600 violation warning letters (non-compliance notices) to landlords and real estate agents throughout its six-state region to remind or inform them of their responsibilities.

Those who violate the lead-based paint notification and disclosure rule face fines ranging from $110 to $11,000 per violation. Landlords, real estate agents and others who repeatedly violate the rule could face larger fines. The severity of the fine is increased if people – especially young children – are found to be affected by lead poisoning.

Those who are concerned about possible exposure to lead paint or are interested in testing for or safely removing contaminated materials should contact their local or state health department. EPA and HUD also have established a “Tips and Complaints” hotline (1-800-424-LEAD) for anyone seeking information about lead-based paint, lead poisoning, or for individuals who wish to report any alleged violations of the disclosure rule.