Property Management Company and EPA Settle Case Involving Lead Paint Notification Violations in Greater Boston and Rhode Island
Release Date: 02/21/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017
(Boston, Mass. - Feb. 21, 2008) – A property management company based in the Boston area, Chestnut Hill Realty Corp., and associated property owners, have agreed to a settlement of nearly $320,000 to settle EPA allegations that the companies violated lead paint disclosure laws at their rental properties in Greater Boston and in Rhode Island.
Under the terms of the settlement, Chestnut Hill Realty and the property owners will pay a penalty of $28,538, and will perform a window replacement “Supplemental Environmental Project” (SEP) worth $289,500. This settlement is one of three significant enforcement actions announced this week by EPA in New England states regarding violations of lead paint disclosure laws. The other cases involved Edgewood Village, Inc., a non-profit in New Haven, Conn. and a private landlord, Juliet Ermitano in Manchester, N.H.
Between June 2003 and Sept. 2004, EPA conducted five on-site inspections at a number of properties managed by Chestnut Hill Realty. EPA’s inspectors identified Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule violations at every location. During subsequent investigations into this matter, EPA identified many instances where tenants were not properly notified of potential lead paint hazards as required by federal law. Chestnut Hill Realty manages over 5,000 residential apartment units in the Greater Boston area and Rhode Island.
All property owners and large management companies must comply with the Disclosure Rule – even if they rely on hard-to-control, “free agent” brokers to lease most of their apartments. As part of the settlement, Chestnut Hill Realty will develop procedures to ensure such compliance. Landlords and management companies can improve compliance with the Disclosure Rule by using a commercial software package that automatically prints out a lead disclosure form with every lease – a step that Chestnut Hill Realty has already taken.
“It is critically important that renters and buyers get the information they need to protect themselves and their children from potential exposure to lead paint. This is especially important for pregnant women and families with young children,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office.
Under the terms of the settlement, in addition to paying the cash penalty, Chestnut Hill Realty will spend $289,500 to replace all the windows in a Cambridge, Mass. building. The 39-unit building, built in1940, has 190 windows that are known to contain lead-based paint. After installing the new custom windows, Chestnut Hill Realty will perform follow-up lead testing.
Old windows are known to contribute to lead poisonings in residential settings because of the lead dust created from weather exposure and from abrasion during opening and closing. Also, young children can become lead-poisoned by mouthing window sills. Replacing windows finished with lead-based paint can help reduce the risk of lead poisonings.
An added benefit of replacing old windows is that new windows can be much more energy-efficient. The SEP will complement an initiative that Chestnut Hill Realty has undertaken to conserve energy in the buildings that it manages by, among other things, conducting energy audits of its buildings, modulating heating controls, and installing new heating systems, insulation, and compact fluorescent bulbs.
Chestnut Hill Realty was cooperative during settlement negotiations.
This case is 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 numerous compliance assistance workshops.
The purpose of the Real Estate Notification and 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 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.
Lead paint health hazards: (epa.gov/region1/eco/ne_lead/index.html)
Lead-based paint disclosure rule: (epa.gov/region1/enforcement/leadpaint/index.html)
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