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EPA Proposes $57,000 Fine Against Department of Veterans Affairs For Lead Paint Disclosure Violations in Maine and Massachusetts

Release Date: 08/19/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is proposing a $57,530 fine against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for failing to properly inform tenants about lead hazards at employee housing provided by the department. The three EPA complaints allege violations of federal lead disclosure rules for employee housing at VA medical centers in Northampton and Bedford, Massachusetts and Togus, Maine.

The three medical centers include a total of 61 units of on-site housing, which the VA leases to employees and their families. As a landlord, the VA is obligated to follow federal rules that require tenants to be notified of potential lead-based paint hazards in the rental units. The EPA complaints allege that on multiple occasions in 1999 and 2000 the VA failed to properly notify tenants of potential lead-based paint hazards.

The case is among a half-dozen lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken since launching an 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

"Lead poisoning continues to be a problem for too many children in New England and across the country," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "This case serves notice that everyone who rents or sells real estate – from individuals up to federal agencies – must take the required basic steps to inform tenants and purchasers about lead hazards."

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, called "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; and 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.