Lead Paint Law in Maryland

Is there chipping, peeling, or flaking paint in your home?

  • Look for chipping, peeling, or flaking paint on interior and exterior walls, window sills, wells and frames, door frames, ceilings, wooden trim, stairwells, floors and porches. Lead dust is most often created by the opening and closing of old windows and doors.
  • If you rent, you can file a Petition for Rent Escrow in District Court to raise the issue of lead paint and other hazardous conditions in your home. More information about Rent Escrow or you can also call one of the Legal Aid Bureau attorneys or advocates.
  • Landlords are required by law to perform “risk reduction” on pre-1950 properties. "Risk Reduction" is a series of treatments by an accredited repairperson who are specially trained to perform the repairs to minimize the risk of lead exposure to you and your family.
  • These treatments include:
    • The removal and repair of chipping, flaking, peeling paint.
    • The capping of window wells with vinyl or aluminum.
    • The use of special cleaning procedures to pick up lead dust once repairs are completed.

Why is lead exposure important?

If you live in or own an older house, lead paint may harm pregnant women or young children. In fact, the Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore ranks among the most hazardous cities in the nation for lead poisoning. The majority of Baltimore cases occur in Park Heights, Sandtown and Middle East.

If your child is poisoned by lead, he or she may fight a life-long battle with:

  • Attention Deficit Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Convulsions
  • Hyperactivity
  • Violent Behavior
  • Mental Retardation
  • Reduction of Motor Control & Balance
  • Hearing Loss

Has your child tested positive for an elevated blood level?

All children residing in “at risk areas” or receiving medical assistance must be tested for lead poisoning at 12 and 24 months. Contact your health provider to find out how and where you can have your child tested. All of Baltimore City is considered an “at risk area,” as well as most of the counties on the Eastern Shore and some of the Western counties. To locate Lead Safe Housing and for general information about lead poisoning, call the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning at (410) 537-6447 or (800) 370-LEAD.

Lead often comes in the form of a very fine, sticky dust. A person can be exposed in various ways, including:

  • breathing or swallowing lead dust,
  • eating chipping lead paint,
  • drinking water from pipes with lead soldering, or
  • eating food grown in contaminated soil.

Children are likely to ingest lead dust when it gets on their hands and then they put their hands or objects in their mouths; for instance, when a child sucks his or her thumb or chews on a toy. It only takes an amount of leaded dust equal to 3 grains of sugar a day to poison a child over time. Pregnant women and their unborn fetuses are also at risk if exposed to lead hazards. Elevated blood levels in pregnant women can lead to an increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, or low birth weight babies. Exposure to lead is not healthy for people of any age.

Which dwellings are covered by the law?

If you live in or own a rental house built before 1978, the house (if not occupied by the owner) falls under the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act, which protects tenants and imposes certain duties on landlords.

An excellent resource and starting place is the MD Department of the Environment’s "Lead Line" website. The site includes "What Every Parent Should Know About Lead", tips on how to identify lead paint hazards, a special package of material for tenants, owner rights and responsibilities plus resources if you suspect lead is present (including laboratories for testing, lead blood level information and lead paint abatement services and contractors).

Comparing State and Federal Laws

Federal and state laws address lead poisoning issues in slightly different ways. A shared feature is that each law requires that specific information be given to current and new tenants. Both Federal and Maryland law require landlords to give to each tenant the pamphlet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home”. Maryland law also requires distribution by landlords of an additional pamphlet entitled “Lead Poisoning Prevention - Notice of Tenants’ Rights”.

For detailed information about the federal law and how to obtain copies of the federally mandated pamphlet, call the National Lead Clearinghouse at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) or the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning at 410-534-6447.

In addition, for detailed information about the Maryland law and how to obtain copies of the state-mandated “Notice of Tenants’ Rights” call the Maryland Lead Poisoning Hotline at 1-800-776-2706, or TDD (410) 631-3009, or the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning at 800-370-LEAD.

Maryland Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

In 1994 the General Assembly established the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for the purpose of reducing the incidence of childhood lead poisoning while maintaining the stock of affordable rental housing. This program requires owners of all residential rental dwelling units built before 1950 to meet certain risk reduction standards. It also provides more affordable insurance for owners who comply. Owners of units built between 1950 and 1978 may choose to comply. The law exempts rental units owned or operated by federal, state, or local government or by a public, quasi-public, or municipal corporation, provided the property is subject to standards that are at least as strict as the standards established by this law.  This program is administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). For more information call the Lead Poisoning Hotline at 1-800-776-2706, or TDD (410) 631-3009.

Read the Law: MD Code,  Environment § 6-801- 6-852;  Article 48A, Secs. 734-737; Real Prop. § 8-208.2

Requirements for Owner Compliance:

Register all rental dwelling units with the Maryland Department of the Environment before December 31, 1995. Owners who acquire affected property after that date must register within 30 days after acquisition.

Beginning February 24, 1996, owners must distribute, by a verifiable method, the “Notice of Tenant’s Rights” and “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” pamphlets to all new tenants at the inception of a new tenancy. For existing tenants, they must receive both copies every two years by a verifiable method.

Meet the Full Risk Reduction standard upon each change in tenant occupancy before the unit is re-rented.  These standards can be met by either passing a test for lead dust or by undertaking appropriate lead hazard treatment such as removing chipping, peeling, or flaking paint, stripping and repainting, replacing, or enclosing interior window sills with approved materials, making bare floors smooth and cleanable.

Have all treated units certified by an MDE-accredited inspector.

Comply with specific Risk Reduction standards when notified of certain conditions such as chipping paint or the presence in the unit of a child or pregnant woman with an elevated blood lead level of 15 Fg/dl or higher.

By February 24, 2001, certify that at least 50% of the owner’s rental units meet the Full Risk Reduction standards, and by February 24, 2006, certify that 100% of the units have meet the Full Risk Reduction standard.


Registration must be renewed annually, and any change in ownership, management, or insurance must be reported within 30 days.  Registration forms are open for public inspection, but MDE may not provide a list of properties owned by an individual landlord.  However, MDE must disclose, upon request, whether the landlord has registered a particular unit or complied with the percentage requirements for inventory cleanup. In addition, MDE will establish its own database to track the status of affected properties. Each time occupancy changes after the first time, the dwelling unit must meet risk reduction standards prescribed by MDE.

Owners are responsible for the cost of temporarily relocating tenants because of a required cleanup.

New Tenancy

At the beginning of a new tenancy, the owner must give the tenant two notices: 1) the EPA pamphlet “Protect Your Family from Lead in your Home” and 2) the MDE pamphlet “Notice of Tenants’ Rights”.  New notices and packets must be given to all tenants every two years.  Notices and packets must be provided in a verifiable manner, such as by certified mail.

Repairs and Maintenance

If an owner of affected property undertakes repairs or maintenance that will disturb the paint on any interior surfaces greater than 3 square feet, the owner must make reasonable efforts to ensure that all “Persons at Risk” (children under 6 and pregnant women) are removed from the property while the work is being done, and to ensure that all other persons are not present in the area where the work is being done.

Tenant must allow reasonable access so that the work can be done.

If it is necessary that the tenant vacate the property for 24 hours or more, the landlord must pay the reasonable expenses that the tenant incurs because of relocation.

Winter Waivers

An owner may apply to local housing authorities for a “winter waiver” for exterior work during the period November 1 - April 1.  The postponed work must be done within 30 days after the end of the waiver period.

Retaliatory Actions Prohibited

The owner of any dwelling units covered by this law may not evict or take any other retaliatory action against a tenant “primarily” as a result of the tenant providing information to the landlord in accordance with this law. Prohibited retaliatory actions include: 1) arbitrary refusal to renew a lease; 2) termination of tenancy; 3) arbitrary rent increase, or decrease in service to which a tenant is entitled, or 4) any kind of constructive eviction.

A tenant who was subjected to a retaliatory eviction or other prohibited action is eligible for the relief and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as provided in the state law prohibiting retaliatory actions by landlords.

This section does not affect landlord’s or tenant’s rights arising from a breach of the lease.

Lead Poisoning Prevention Commission

The law establishes a broadly representative 18-member Lead Poisoning Prevention Commission. The Commission is responsible for studying and gathering information on economic, medical, and other issues relating to the effectiveness of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (HB760), including the need to expand the scope of the law to cover childcare centers, family day care homes, and preschool facilities. Each year, the commission is to review the implementation of the Program and submit a report to the Governor.

Community Outreach

The Maryland Department of the Environment has the responsibility of establishing community outreach programs in areas of high lead risk, and if necessary, assisting local governments to provide public health case management services to persons at risk with elevated levels of blood lead.

TITLE X - Federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reeducation Act of 1992

Among other things, this law requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to jointly issue regulations to require disclosure of known lead-based paint hazards by persons selling or leasing housing built before the phase out of residential lead-based paint use in 1978. The law went into full effect on December 6, 1996, for owners of pre-1978 properties. Following is a summary of the requirements:

  • Sellers and lessors of most residential housing built before 1978 must disclose the presence of known lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards in the housing;
  • Sellers and lessors must provide purchasers and lessees with any available records of reports pertaining to the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards;
  • Sellers and lessors must provide purchasers and lessees with the “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” educational pamphlet;
  • Sellers must provide purchasers with a 10-day opportunity to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards before the purchaser is obligated under any purchase contract;
  • Sales and leasing contracts must include certain disclosure and acknowledgment language; and
  • Agents must ensure compliance with Title X’s requirements.
  • Title X applies to most pre-1978 rentals and sales of residential housing.

Types of Housing Exempted from Title X’s Requirement Are

Zero bedroom units, such as efficiencies, lofts, and dormitories; housing leased for less than 100 days, such as vacation houses or short-term rentals; housing for the elderly (unless children live there); housing for the handicapped (unless children live there); rental housing that has been inspected by a certified inspector and found to be free of lead-based pain; and housing sold at a foreclosure sale

Effective dates: For owners of five or more dwelling units, the regulations took effect on September 6, 1996. For owners of one to four dwelling units, they took effect on December 6, 1996. Read the Law: MD Code, Environment §§ 6-301 and 6-302; Real Prop. § 8-211.1

Use Prohibited

State law prohibits any person from using lead-based paint on any interior surface, on the porch of any dwelling, on any exterior surface to which children may commonly be exposed, and on any household use article except where a lead-based industrial paint is applied to a household appliance. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to 30 days or both. Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate offense.

Rent Escrow

Regardless of any other provision of law or any agreement, written or oral, where lead-based paint is found on any interior, exterior, or other surface of a residential unit that is readily accessible to a child, if the landlord fails to remove the paint within 20 days after being notified of its presence, tenant may begin to deposit his rent payments in an escrow account with the clerk of the Maryland District Court for the district where the dwelling is located.

In addition to depositing the rent in an escrow account, tenant may seek any other remedy available at law or equity.

The money in the escrow account may be released to landlord if a certificate has been issued by the local health authority stating that the premises have been inspected and the lead-based paint violations have been corrected, or the money may be released to tenant or other person who has corrected the violations on presentation of a bill for the cost and the proper certification by the local health authority.

Where tenant has pursued the remedies offered by this law and paid the rent on time to the escrow agent, any attempt by landlord to evict the tenant, end the tenancy, or raise the rent, within two months after certification that the violations have been corrected, shall be presumed to be retaliatory and shall therefore be void.

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Is this legal advice?

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