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February 23, 2004 - NYC passes new laws dealing with lead poisoning

Recent changes in New York City's building codes are placing more liability responsibilities on landlords, as the city dramatically toughens responsibility for making sure apartments are free of lead paint.

On the issue of lead paint, landlords now have an absolute responsibility for any lead paint exposure found in children under the age of seven, unless they have proven conclusively that the dwelling has no lead paint exposure.

Under a recently passed city ordinance, landlords have to investigate, notify tenants, correct the hazard, and use safe work practices for the removal of hazardous materials in multi-dwellings built before 1978. Property owners must be certain that there is no lead paint in the home and get certification. If they don't receive certification, the assumption is that there is lead paint.

Property owners, under the ordinance, must certify the building is free of lead paint when the property is sold. They also must inspect the homes to determine if children seven or younger reside there. If a child resides there, the owner is responsible for testing and ridding living areas and all surfaces that a child can reach of lead paint. All records must be kept for 10 years after.

John McCarthy, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Community Preservation Corporation, a non-profit lender for affordable housing, said that under the ordinance, if a child is discovered to have elevated levels of lead paint in his or her system, and there is no documentation that the residence is free of lead paint, it is assumed that the home caused the problem.

This is a prescription for open-ended tort liability, he said. The strict nature of the law would forestall new housing development and push liability insurance rates up.

Lead paint is an issue that the small commercial residential rental property owners cannot afford to handle on their own. They will need insurance. It is thought there will probably be some coverage available similar to mold insurance, with limits.


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