Lead Paint Law: Rights and Obligations for Renters and Property Owners
Maryland and federal laws about lead paint are designed to reduce childhood lead poisoning while maintaining affordable rental housing. These laws provide rights and duties for renters and property owners in pre-1978 residential rental properties/units (“Affected Properties”).
Contents of this article:
- Where can I find more information about Maryland’s lead paint law?
- Are children required to be tested for lead poisoning?
- Are there community outreach programs for high lead risk areas?
- What must owners do to comply with Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act?
- What must an owner do upon receiving a written Notice of Defect or a written Notice of Elevated Blood Lead Level (“EBL”) of 10 micrograms per deciliter or more?
- Are there penalties for failing to comply with the Maryland Reduction in Lead Risk in Housing Act?
- What are some of the retaliatory actions owners of Affected Properties are prohibited from doing?
- Is an Affected Property that has a lead-free inspection certificate or limited lead-free inspection certificate exempt from Maryland’s lead paint law?
- Who must be trained and accredited by MDE to perform lead abatement services?
- Can owners perform risk reduction work on their Affected Properties?
- Are owners required to remove persons at risk from their Affected Properties to perform maintenance or repairs at their Affected Properties?
- Can owners perform minor repairs and maintenance on their Affected Properties?
- What is the difference between a lead-based paint inspection and a lead-based paint risk assessment?
- Can owners obtain winter waivers to postpone exterior work on their Affected Properties?
- Are owners required to disclose their obligation to perform risk reduction before transferring their Affected Properties to prospective purchasers?
- Federal lead paint law
It only takes an amount of lead dust equal to three grains of sugar a day to poison a child over time. Lead often comes in the form of a very fine, sticky dust. Children are likely to swallow 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.
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.
If you live in or own an older house, defective lead-based paint may harm children and adults. Individuals most at risk are pregnant women and young children under the age of six who reside or spend significant amounts of time at the Affected Property. In fact, the Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore ranks among the most hazardous cities in the nation for lead poisoning. The majority of Baltimore incidents of lead poisoning 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
- Violent Behavior
- Mental Retardation
- Reduction of Motor Control and Balance
- Hearing Loss
Pregnant women and their unborn fetuses are also at risk if exposed to lead hazards. Elevated blood lead levels in pregnant women can lead to an increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, or low birth weight babies.
Only pre-1978 residential rental properties/units (“Affected Properties”) are regulated by Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act. Owner-occupied properties/units are not regulated. Affected Properties that are MDE-certified lead-free or limited lead-free are exempt from Maryland’s lead paint law. Affected Properties owned or operated by federal, State, or local government or by a public, quasi-public, or municipal corporation are also exempt, provided the Affected Properties are subject to standards at least as strict as the standards established by Maryland’s lead paint law.
- Homes built before 1978 may have lead-based paint, since lead-based paint for residential use was not banned until 1978. Look for chipping, peeling, or flaking paint on the interior and exterior of the Affected Property, including the walls, window sills, wells and frames, door frames, ceilings, wooden trim, stairwells, floors and porches. Lead dust is often created by opening and closing old windows and doors.
- If you rent an Affected Property, ask the landlord for a copy of a current, passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate for the Affected Property. You can also call MDE’s Lead Hotline at 410-537-4199 or 1-800-766-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258) to obtain a copy of the most current passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate on file with MDE for an Affected Property.
- If you rent an Affected Property and are concerned about your child being exposed to lead-based paint hazards, ask your doctor to administer a blood test for lead poisoning to your child.
- If you rent an Affected Property and the Affected Property does not have a current passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate, you can file a Petition for Rent Escrow in the District Court in the county where you live to raise the issue of lead paint and other hazardous conditions in the Affected Property. For more information about rent escrow, contact a Legal Aid Bureau attorney or advocate or the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative at 410-534-6447. Read the Law: Md. Ann. Code, Real Property § 8-211.1
- Landlords are required by law to perform “risk reduction” on Affected Properties. "Risk reduction" is a series of treatments by certified contractors specially trained to perform specific lead-safe work practices to prevent exposure to lead hazards to you and your family.
A good starting place is MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (”Lead Program”). The Lead Program provides oversight for community education to parents, tenants, rental property owners, and health care providers to enhance their roles in lead poisoning prevention.
An excellent resource is MDE’s "Lead Line" website. MDE’s Lead Line website includes "What Every Parent Should Know About Lead", tips on how to identify lead paint hazards, lead poisoning educational materials for tenants, owners’ rights and responsibilities, and other resources if you suspect lead is present, including laboratories for testing, blood lead level information, and a list of MDE-accredited lead paint inspectors and contractors.
For detailed information about Maryland’s lead paint law, call MDE’s Lead Hotline at (410) 410-537-4199 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258), or the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative at 410-534-6447.
All children living in “at risk areas” for lead poisoning or receiving medical assistance must be blood tested for lead poisoning at 12 and 24 months. Children between 24 months and six years old, living in “at risk areas,” must be blood lead tested if the child has not previously received a blood test for lead poisoning or documentation concerning blood test for lead poisoning cannot be verified. Currently, all of Baltimore City is considered an “at risk area,” as well as most Eastern Shore counties and some Western counties. Contact your health care provider to find out how and where you can have your child tested.
MDE’s Lead Program is responsible for establishing community outreach programs in areas of high lead risk, including assisting local governments as needed to provide public health case management services to persons at risk with elevated levels of blood lead. You can check http://news.maryland.gov/mde/ for updated news and events.
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 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 is a separate offense.
- Owners must register their Affected Properties and renew the registration annually.
- Owners must obtain passing full risk reduction lead inspection certificates for their Affected Properties.
- Owners must ensure that 50% of their pre-1950 residential rental properties/units have passing full risk reduction lead inspection certificates.
- Owners must ensure that 100% of their pre-1950 residential rental properties/units have passing applicable risk reduction inspection certificates.
- Owners must provide certain lead paint educational documents to their tenants residing in Affected Properties.
Owners are required to register their Affected Properties with MDE and to renew the registration thereafter before December 31st of each year. The registration requirement was effective on January 1, 1996 for rental properties/units constructed before 1950 and effective on January 1, 2015 for rental properties/units constructed after 1949 and before 1978.
Owners can register and renew their registration for their Affected Properties in accordance with §§ 6-811 and 6-812 of the Environment Article by using MDE’s Lead Rental Property Registration and Renewal Online System (“MDE’s Lead Registry Online System”). MDE’s Lead Registry Online System is located at: www.mde.maryland.gov/leadregistration. To use MDE’s Lead Registry Online System, you must first have a tracking number and a password, which you can obtain from MDE by calling MDE’s Lead Hotline at (410) 537-4199 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258).
Owners have 30 days following acquisition of an Affected Property to satisfy Maryland’s registration requirements. There is a $30 registration fee for each Affected Property. Affected Properties that have been MDE-certified lead-free or limited lead-free are exempt from Maryland’s registration requirements. However, owners must pay MDE a one-time lead-processing fee of $10 per property/unit.
MDE tracks the registration status of all Affected Properties in Maryland through MDE’s lead rental registry database. Registration forms are open for public inspection, but MDE may not disclose to the public an inventory or list of Affected Properties owned by an individual owner. However, MDE must disclose, upon request, whether an owner has registered a particular Affected Property with MDE and whether an owner has met the 50 and 100 percent compliance requirements under § 6-817 of the Environment Article.
At the first change in tenant-occupancy after February 23, 1996, and at every change in tenant-occupancy thereafter, prior to re-occupancy of a rental property constructed before 1950, the property/unit must meet the full risk reduction standard. A rental property constructed during 1950-1977 must also meet the full risk reduction standard prior to each change in tenant occupancy occurring on or after January 1, 2015.
To meet the full risk reduction standard under § 6-815 of the Environment Article, an owner’s Affected Property must pass a lead-contaminated dust test, provided that any chipping, peeling, or flaking paint has been removed or repainted on the exterior and interior surfaces of the Affected Property.
A “lead-contaminated dust test” consists of wipe samples taken from an Affected Property, which are sent to a laboratory for analysis. A report is then created that lists any area of lead that exceeds the lead content level established by MDE by regulation.
At each change in occupancy, an owner of an Affected Property must have the Affected Property inspected by an MDE-accredited lead paint inspection contractor to verify that the full risk reduction standard has been satisfied. The MDE-accredited lead paint inspection contractor must submit a copy of the full risk reduction certificate, along with all inspection results, laboratory analysis, and all supporting documents to MDE and the owner of the Affected Property within ten calendar days following receipt of the laboratory analysis of the dust samples.
MDE tracks the certificate status of all Affected Properties in Maryland through MDE’s oversight (certificate) database. To verify whether an Affected Property has a current lead risk reduction inspection certificate on file with MDE, call MDE’s Lead Hotline at 410-537-4199 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258).
On or after February 24, 2001, Owners must ensure that 50% of their residential rental properties built before 1950 have satisfied the full risk reduction standard under § 6-815 of the Environment Article regardless of the number of properties that had a change in tenant-occupancy, as required by § 6-817 of the Environment Article. The full risk reduction standard is satisfied by passing a lead-contaminated dust test and by obtaining a full risk reduction inspection certificate.
On or after February 24, 2006, Owners must ensure that 100% of their residential rental properties built before 1950, where a person at risk resides and the owner has been notified in writing, are in compliance with the full risk reduction standard under § 6-815 of the Environment Article, as required by § 6-817(b) of the Environment Article.
On or after February 24, 2006, Owners must also ensure that 100% of their residential rental properties built before 1950, in which a person at risk does not reside, have satisfied the modified risk reduction standard, as required by § 6-819(f) of the Environment Article.
To meet the modified risk reduction standard under § 6-819 of the Environment Article, owners are required to pass a test for lead-contaminated dust under § 6-816 of the Environment Article and perform the following lead hazards reduction treatments by an MDE-accredited contractor:
- Conduct a visual view of all interior and exterior painted surfaces;
- Remove and repaint all chipping, peeling or flaking paint on exterior and interior painted surfaces;
- Repair any structural defect that is causing the paint to chip, peel or flake;
- Strip and repaint, replace or encapsulate all interior windowsills with vinyl, metal, or any other material approved by MDE;
- Ensure that caps of vinyl, aluminum, or any other material approved by MDE are installed in all window wells to make the window wells smooth and cleanable;
- Except for a treated or replacement window that is free of lead-based paint on its friction surfaces, fix the top sash of all windows to eliminate any friction caused by movement of the top sash;
- Re-hang all doors to prevent any lead-painted surfaces from rubbing with other surfaces;
- Ensure that all kitchen and bathroom floors are overlaid with a smooth, water-resistant covering; and
- HEPA-vacuum and wash with high phosphate detergent or its equivalent, as determined by MDE, any area of the rental property/unit where repairs were made.
Owners must distribute, by a verifiable method, the State’s “Notice of Tenants’ Rights” and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” to all new tenants of Affected Properties at the inception of new tenancies and to existing tenants every two years.
To obtain copies of the State’s Notice of Tenants’ Rights, visit MDE’s website at: www.mde.state.md.us/lead or call MDE’s Lead Hotline at (410) 537-4199 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258) or call the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative at (410) 534-6447.
To obtain copies of EPA’s pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home,” visit EPA’s lead website at: www.epa.gov/lead or call EPA at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) (TTY Users: 1-800-877-8399).
Within 30 days of the owner being notified in writing of either a Notice of Defect (generally from a tenant, governmental entity, or business entity) that there are structural defects and/or chipping, peeling or flaking paint at an Affected Property or a Notice of EBL that a child under six years of age or a pregnant woman has an EBL of 10 micrograms per deciliter or more (generally from a local health department), the owner is required to:
- Provide for the permanent relocation of all tenants to a property that is MDE-certified lead-free or is in compliance with the full risk reduction standard under § 6-815 of the Environment Article; or
- Temporarily relocate all tenants while work is being performed at the Affected Property and obtain a passing modified risk reduction inspection certificate under § 6-819 of the Environment Article prior to the tenants moving back into the Affected Property.
MDE receives copies of Notices of EBL and monitors the EBL notices. Regarding Notices of Defect, if an owner fails to comply with this notice, a tenant can make a complaint with MDE by calling 410-537-3825 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258). A tenant will need to provide MDE with a copy of the Notice of Defect and written verification of the owner’s receipt of the Notice of Defect.
Owners that fail to register or renew an Affected Property with MDE are subject to a penalty of up to $20 per day until the Affected Property is registered or renewed. Owners that fail to obtain an applicable passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate or distribute the lead-educational materials are subject to a penalty. The penalty is up to $500 per day, per Affected Property, for each day of violation until a risk reduction inspection certificate is filed with MDE, but not exceeding $100,000 total penalty.
Owners may also be subject to civil penalties not exceeding $25,000 for lead violations. Each day a violation occurs is a separate violation.
Owners of Affected Properties that are covered by the Lead Risk in Housing Act may not illegally 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 Maryland’s lead paint law; for instance, complaining about hazardous conditions or chipping, peeling, or flaking paint in an Affected Property.
Prohibited retaliatory actions include:
- arbitrary refusal to renew a lease;
- termination of tenancy;
- arbitrary rent increase, or decrease in service to which a tenant is entitled; or
- any kind of constructive eviction.
A tenant who was subjected to a retaliatory eviction or other prohibited retaliatory action by a landlord is permitted relief and is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, as allowed under Maryland law.
This section does not affect the landlord’s or the tenant’s rights arising from a breach of a lease.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Real Property § 8-208.2
An Affected Property that has been lead-paint tested by an inspector accredited by MDE and that has been issued a “lead-free inspection certificate” or “limited lead-free inspection certificate” is exempt from the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act.
A “lead-free” inspection certificate is a certificate in which an Affected Property is tested for the presence of lead-based paint and all of the interior and exterior surfaces of the Affected Property are lead-free in accordance with criteria established by MDE by regulation. Owners must pay MDE a one-time lead processing fee of $10 per property/unit.
A “limited lead-free” inspection certificate is a certificate in which only the interior surfaces of an Affected Property are lead-free but the exterior painted surfaces of the Affected Property are not lead-free. In order to pass an inspection for a limited lead-free certificate, all exterior paint of the Affected Property must be intact. A limited lead-free inspection certificate has a two-year expiration date. Every two years, owners must recertify that the Affected Property is free of chipping, peeling or flaking exterior paint. If the limited lead-free inspection certificate expires and is not timely recertified by the owner, the owner must obtain a new limited lead-free inspection certificate for the Affected Property and pay MDE another $10 lead processing fee per property/unit.
Maryland law requires that workers, supervisors, project designers, inspectors or risk assessors involved in lead abatement be trained in safe work abatement practices and procedures. Contracting businesses, self-employed individuals, supervisors, inspectors, and risk assessors must be accredited by MDE.
To verify whether a contractor or an inspector is accredited by MDE, visit MDE’s website at: www.mde.state.md.us or call MDE’s Lead Compliance and Accreditation Division at 410-537-3825 or 1-800-766-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258).
Owners may perform risk reduction work on their Affected Properties, but only after completing a two-day training session with an MDE-accredited training provider and after becoming an MDE-accredited lead paint maintenance and repainting supervisor. For more information about MDE-accreditation, call MDE’s Lead Compliance and Accreditation Division at 410-537-3825 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258).
Owners must make reasonable efforts to remove pregnant women and children under six years of age (“Persons at Risk”) from their Affected Properties while work is being performed that will disturb the paint on interior surfaces of the Affected Properties. Tenants must allow reasonable access to the Affected Properties so that work can be performed. If it is necessary that tenants vacate Affected Properties for 24 hours or more to allow work to be performed that will disturb the paint on interior surfaces, owners must pay reasonable expenses that the tenants directly incur due to the relocation to temporary lead-safe housing.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Environment § 6-821.
Except for window removal or replacement, owners of Affected Properties may perform minor repairs and maintenance on their Affected Properties as long as the disturbance of a lead-containing substance, including plumbing and electrical work, involves three square feet or less of surface area in a room.
Repairs or maintenance work that disturbs a lead-containing substance involving more than three square feet of surface area in a room must be performed by or under the supervision of personnel accredited by MDE.
A lead-based paint inspection determines the presence of lead-based paint in an Affected Property. The inspection generally entails a surface-by-surface examination to determine whether there is lead-based paint and where it is located. Lead-based paint inspections must be performed by inspectors or risk assessors accredited by MDE.
A lead-based paint risk assessment is an on-site investigation of an Affected Property to determine the presence, type, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards, including lead hazards in paint, dust, and soil, and provides recommendations to control the lead hazards. Risk assessments must be performed by lead paint risk assessors accredited by MDE.
Read the Law: Code of Maryland Regulations 26.26.01.
Owners may apply to the local code officials of housing or minimum livability codes for a “winter waiver” to temporarily delay exterior work required to satisfy the risk reduction standard. The local code official is based on the county or municipality where the Affected Property is located. Some local jurisdictions have implemented annual exterior waiver time periods, but if no time period is specified, during November 1st through April 1st. However, the postponed work must be completed within 30 days after the end of the waiver period. For questions concerning winter waivers, contact your local code official or call MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 410-537-3825 or 1-800-776-2706 (TTY Users: 1-800-735-2258).
At or prior to a contract of sale being executed, an owner of an Affected Property is required to disclose to a prospective buyer:
- The owner’s obligation to perform risk reduction treatments not yet performed on an Affected Property due to a tenant turnover, a notice of defect, or a notice of elevated blood lead level; and
- Whether the owner will not be performing the risk reduction treatments prior to the transfer of the Affected Property.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Environment § 6-824.
Federal law addresses lead paint in housing. For example, there is the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazardous Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X (federal lead-based paint disclosure rule), and there is EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.
- What is the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazardous Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X (federal lead-based paint disclosure rule)?
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, was passed by Congress to protect families from exposure to lead-based paint. Specifically, § 1018 of the federal law requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the EPA to jointly issue regulations to require disclosure of known lead-based paint hazards by persons selling or leasing most housing built before 1978. Types of housing that are exempt from Title X’s requirements are hotels, motels, or seasonal rental units, as well as housing certified lead-free by accredited inspectors. The federal regulations exclude “o-bedroom dwellings” (the living area is not separated from the sleeping area), which includes efficiencies, studio apartments, typical dormitory housing, and military barracks.
Listed below is a summary of the federal lead-based paint disclosure rule:
- Sellers and landlords 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 landlords must provide purchasers and lessees with any available records or reports pertaining to the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards;
- Sellers and landlords must provide purchasers and lessees with the EPA pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”;
- 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.
The effective dates for the federal lead-based paint disclosure law are September 6, 1996 for owners of more than four residential dwellings and December 6, 1996 for owners of one to four residential dwellings. For more information about the federal lead- based paint disclosure law, visit EPA’s lead website at: www.epa.gov/lead or call EPA’s Lead Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).
- What is EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule?
EPA’s 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (“RRP Rule”) became fully effective on April 22, 2010. The RRP Rule requires firms that perform renovation, repair, and painting projects for compensation disturbing certain lead-based paint (including window replacements, weatherization, and demolition of painted surface areas) in homes, child care facilities, and preschools built before 1978 to have their firms:
- Certified by EPA or an EPA authorized State;
- Use certified renovators trained by EPA-approved training providers; and
- Follow lead-safe work practices.
Before contractors, property managers, or other persons start renovation and repair activities, they must distribute EPA’s lead hazard information pamphlet, “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right” to occupants and owners of homes, and owners and parents of child-occupied facilities. Landlords or their employees performing work in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities are covered by the RRP Rule and must use lead-safe work practices when disturbing lead-based paint. The RRP Rule does not apply to owners who perform work in their own residence.
For more information about the RRP Rule, including limits on the scope of the rule, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, call the EPA at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) or visit EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/lead.