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ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO AND HOUSING SECRETARY CUOMO ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENTS OF OVER $1 MILLION IN NATIONWIDE EFFORT TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM LEAD POISONING
WASHINGTON - Attorney General Janet Reno and Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced multiple court actions of over $1 million against landlords who violated federal law by failing to warn their tenants that their homes may contain lead-based paint hazards. These actions, the first ever filed under the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, include four settlements totaling more than $1 million worth of lead paint abatement and $259,000 in fines and other commitments. In addition, HUD has undertaken 45 administrative enforcement actions under the Act in 20 cities.
Together, these cases signal the Administration's stepped up effort to protect children and others who are vulnerable to suffering from exposure to lead-based paint. The nationwide enforcement effort involves the cooperation of DOJ, HUD and the Environmental Protection Agency, and state and local governments around the country.
"Today's announcement serves to underscore the federal government's commitment to address childhood lead poisoning and sends a strong message to landlords that they can not shun their responsibility to warn tenants about any known lead paint hazard," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "I am particularly pleased that the Federal government is a partner in these enforcement efforts with the District of Columbia and other local governments to investigate and prosecute these cases."
In conjunction with today's announcement HUD will begin working with federal and local officials in all 50 states to bring cases against landlords who fail to comply with the law. In the next couple of weeks, DOJ will also be sharing with U.S. Attorney's offices across the country a packet of information on how to investigate and prosecute similar cases.
The four settlements announced today involve multi-family apartment owners and management companies that rent approximately 4,000 units in 33 buildings, and who violated the disclosure requirements of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act. They are a result of a joint initiative by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to seek corrective measures by landlords who fail to warn their tenants about known and potential lead hazards in buildings built before 1978.
"HUD is committed to working with the Justice Department in making sure that children are playing and growing in environments that are safe," said Housing Secretary Cuomo. "We will continue to crack down on landlords who fail to provide the necessary information to tenants about the risks of lead based paint and how to prevent lead poisoning in their families."
The United States, and in some cases the District of Columbia, today filed consent decrees with Cornerstone Management, Crawford Edgewood Management, Capitol Park Associates and Double H Management, companies that collectively own and manage about 4,000 residential units in DC and Maryland. In the four proposed consent decrees lodged today in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, the defendants agreed to pay $87,000 in penalties to the U.S. Treasury and commit $172,000 to support community based projects to reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the District of Columbia. The defendant landlords also have agreed to immediately provide tenants with the required warnings about lead-based paint, and to correct lead-based paint hazards in their units.
In addition to these settlements, the United States today filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court against American Rental Management Company and Chastleton Associates operating properties in Washington, DC. This affects an additional 300 units in the District.
Secretary Cuomo also announced today that HUD has initiated 45 administrative cases under the federal disclosure law against owners and/or management agents across the country, including: the District of Columbia; Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Providence, RI; Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Paw Paw, MI; Houston, TX; Richmond, VA; Youngstown, OH; Los Angeles, CA; Richfield Springs, NY; New London, CT; Hampton, VA; Huber Heights, OH; Cranston, RI; St. Louis, MO; Mulvane, KS; and Silver Spring, MD. So far, these cases have resulted in five settlements, four issued complaints, 23 pre-penalty letters and 13 ongoing investigations affecting an additional 11,200 units.
Attorney General Reno and Secretary Cuomo made this announcement today at the Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center, a Mount Pleasant child center where they were joined by EPA Administrator Carol Browner and DC Mayor Anthony Williams. The Calvary Center is located in Ward 1, an area with the highest rate of lead poisoning in the District of Columbia. The officials also took part in a lead education program conducted by DC health care providers.
"Lead poisoning is the greatest environmental threat facing America's children today," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner, "Today's enforcement action by the Clinton Administration sends a strong signal to ensure that those who avoid their legal responsibilities for alerting people to potential lead contamination will be held accountable to the full measure of the law."
The cases involve properties known to have either lead poisoned children or lead-based paint; HUD-assisted housing which has otherwise been identified as physically or financially troubled; referrals from State and local health and housing departments; and referrals, tips and complaints by callers to the National Lead Information Center (1-800-424-LEAD).
Congress enacted the Lead Hazard Reduction Act to increase awareness and provide simple recommendations for families to reduce the likelihood of lead poisoning. Since then, DOJ, HUD and EPA have undertaken extensive educational outreach involving landlords and housing groups to raise awareness of the problem. The Rule requires sellers and landlords of most housing built before 1978 to disclose information about the known presence of lead-based paint and its associated hazards before the sale or lease of a home. In addition, sellers and landlords are required to provide homebuyers and tenants with an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet describing the dangers of lead-based paint. Sellers must also provide purchasers with a 10-day opportunity to conduct a risk assessment or lead-based paint inspection before the purchaser is obligated under any purchase contract.
Since the ban of lead in gasoline and food cans and new measures to reduce lead in drinking water, the number one source of childhood lead poisoning is deteriorating lead based paint and the contaminated dust and soil it generates. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 890,000 children under the age of six in this country have blood lead levels that exceed the limits established by the CDC. Children in low income families living in older housing, where lead-based paint is most prevalent, are four times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels than those in other areas.
For information on the lead disclosure rule and what you can do to control lead-based paint and its associated hazards, call 1-800-424-LEAD or visit the HUD Office of Lead Hazard Control's Internet web site at on www.hud.gov/lea.
Summary of 50 HUD Administrative Cases Initiated In 20 Cities
1. 5 Administrative Settlements
Facts - Lessor, Majid Chaudhary, leased the property on or about December 23, 1996 and failed to provide the tenant with the lead hazard information pamphlet, any records or reports concerning lead-based paint, and the lead-based paint attachment. The local health department had previously issued a lead-based paint abatement order for this property. Majid Chaudhary owns approximately three (3) residential dwellings.
Terms of Settlement - (1) Majid Chaudhary agrees to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act going forward; (2) Majid Chaudhary agrees to comply with an order by the city of Philadelphia Department of Public Health for the removal of lead hazards at the property so that the property will be listed in "Satisfactory Compliance"; and (3) Majid Chaudhary will pay HUD $2,000 as an administrative penalty for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
Facts - Lessor, Johnnie Coleman, Jr., leased the property on or about August 4, 1994. Mr. Coleman received a notice form the Health Department dated August 19, 1996 stating that the property had lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards. The tenant subsequently renewed such lease on or about October, 1996 and Mr. Coleman failed to provide the tenant with the lead hazard information pamphlet, any records or reports concerning lead-based paint, and the lead-based paint attachment. The local health department had previously issued a lead-based paint abatement order for this property. Mr. Coleman owns approximately five (5) residential dwellings.
Terms of Settlement - (1) Mr. Coleman agrees to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act going forward; (2) Mr. Coleman will comply with an order issued by the Baltimore City Health Department for the removal of lead nuisance at the property; and (3) Mr. Coleman will pay HUD $4,000 as an administrative penalty for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
Facts - Lessor, Stuart H. Kaplow, leased the property on or about May 3, 1997 and failed to provide the tenant with the lead hazard information pamphlet, any records or reports concerning lead-based paint, and the lead-based paint attachment. The local health department had previously issued a lead-based paint abatement order for this property. Mr. Kaplow owns approximately twenty (20) multi-unit properties in Ohio.
Terms of Settlement - (1) Mr. Kaplow agrees to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act going forward; (2) Mr. Kaplow agrees to abate the property in accordance with the Columbus Health Department; and (3) Mr. Kaplow will pay HUD $3,000 as part of the settlement.
Facts - Lessor, James A. Garland, leased the property on or about July 18, 1997 and failed to provide the tenant with the lead hazard information pamphlet, any records or reports concerning lead-based paint, and the lead-based paint attachment. The tenants had the property tested for lead-based paint and it was found to contain a significant level of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards. Mr. Garland owns approximately two (2) residential dwellings.
Terms of Settlement - (1) Mr. Garland agrees to spend $5,250 to abate the lead-based paint and lead in dust or soil in the property; and (2) Mr. Garland will pay HUD $1,000 as an administrative penalty for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
Facts - Lessor, Walter Sandoval, leased the property on or about January 1, 1997 and failed to provide the tenant with the lead hazard information pamphlet, any records or reports concerning lead-based paint, and the lead-based paint attachment. The local health department had previously issued a lead-based paint abatement order for this property. Mr. Sandoval owns approximately two (2) residential dwellings.
Terms of Settlement - (1) Mr. Sandoval agrees to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act going forward; (2) Mr. Sandoval agrees to abate the property in accordance with the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Department of Health regulations; and (3) Mr. Sandoval will pay HUD $2,000 as an administrative penalty for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
2. 4 Administrative Complaints Issued
HUD has issued four (4) administrative complaints to owners in the following two (2) cities who failed to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act upon lease of properties: Columbus, Ohio (1 complaint) and Baltimore, Maryland (3 complaints). In each case, local health departments had previously issued lead-based paint abatement orders for the properties. The civil money penalties sought by HUD in these complaints totals $67,650. These four (4) owners who have received administrative complaints own as many as thirteen (13) residential dwellings or as few as four (4) dwellings.
3. 23 Administrative Pre-Penalty Letters Issued.
HUD has issued three (3) pre-penalty letters to management companies and property owners in Washington, DC informing them that the Department is considering seeking a civil money penalty for alleged violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
HUD has issued twenty (20) pre-penalty letters to owners in seventeen (17) cities who failed to comply with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act upon sale or lease of properties. These cities are Cleveland, Ohio, Providence, Rhode Island, Youngstown, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, California, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Houston, Texas, Hampton, Virginia, St. Louis, Missouri, New London, Connecticut, Silver Spring, Maryland, Cranston, Rhode Island, Richfield Springs, New York, Mulvane, Kansas, Huber Heights, Ohio, Richmond, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. In many of these cases, local health departments had previously issued lead-based paint abatement orders for these properties. HUD received some of these cases from tips and complaints by callers to the National Lead Information Center. Owners who have received these pre-penalty letters own as many as 450 residential dwellings or as few as a single dwelling.
4. 13 Ongoing Investigations in Washington, DC.
HUD is currently investigating approximately thirteen (13) additional cases involving multi-family projects and management companies in Washington, DC to determine compliance with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
5. 5 Joint Judicial/Administrative Cases.
HUD and the Department of Justice have settled four (4) cases in Washington, DC for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act. The Department of Justice will file one (1) complaint in Federal District Court for violations of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act on behalf of HUD (see the Department of Justice case summaries).
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009