|HUD No. 00-284|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Wednesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||October 4, 2000|
HUD, THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND EPA ANNOUNCE $638,000 IN PENALTIES AGAINST WASHINGTON-AREA LANDLORDS
WASHINGTON The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced penalties against three of the Washington areas largest real estate management companies for failing to warn hundreds of tenants that their homes may contain lead-based paint hazards.
Borger Management, Wm. Calomiris Corporation and American Rental Management Company agreed to pay $563,000 in lead paint abatement. In addition, the three companies are ordered to pay nearly $75,000 in penalties for violating the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act.
"The actions taken today should send a clear signal to landlords that HUD takes the health of children very seriously," HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said. "Every family deserves to live in a home that is safe from the threat of lead."
"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," Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer said. "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."
Under the settlements, Borger Management and Wm. Calomiris Corporation agreed to abate lead-based paint hazards in all of their rental units, at an estimated cost of $500,000. The companies also agreed to warn current and future tenants about the hazards posed by lead-based paint, as federal law requires.
The agreements, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, also require Borger to pay $25,000 and Calomiris to pay $5,000 in penalties. Calomiris will also provide $10,000 to support community-based projects to reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the District of Columbia.
In addition, American Rental Management Company was ordered to pay a $34,800 penalty for violating the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act in two buildings that contain 1,232 units. As part of the court order, the company agreed to spend $63,000 to abate lead hazards in "The Chastleton," a 300-unit building it manages.
Todays actions are the latest in a series of efforts by the federal government to protect families from exposure to lead-based paint hazards. The nationwide effort involves the cooperation of DOJ, including the United States Attorneys Offices, HUD, EPA and state and local governments around the country.
In a separate action, EPA announced today that it has filed an administrative case seeking $128,920 in monetary penalties under the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act against San-Tex Lumber Co., a property management firm in San Antonio, TX. This EPA enforcement action affects more than 300 residential units.
"Lead poisoning is perhaps the greatest environmental threat facing America's children today," Steve Herman, EPAs Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said. "We will make sure that those who avoid their legal responsibility to alert people to potential lead contamination will be held fully accountable."
Childhood lead poisoning is the most common environmental disease of young children, eclipsing all other environmental health hazards found in the residential environment. It causes reduced intelligence, low attention span, reading and learning disabilities, and has been linked to juvenile delinquency, behavioral problems, and many other adverse health effects. At high exposure levels, lead poisoning can cause coma, convulsion and death. The vast majority of childhood lead poisoning cases, however, go undiagnosed and untreated since most poisoned children have no obvious symptoms. The most common method for assessing a childs exposure to lead is measuring the level of lead in her blood.
"Our commitment to holding landlords accountable for the conditions in which their tenants live is part of a multi-agency collaborative effort to improve the quality of life for the residents and citizens of the District of Columbia," Wilma A. Lewis, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia said. "It is time to recognize that everyone must step up to the plate in this effort. Landlords who fail to take appropriate corrective and preventive measures can be assured of receiving our attention as the safety and well-being of some of our most vulnerable citizens is paramount."
The cases involve companies known to have either lead poisoned children and/or lead-based paint in the apartments they manage; 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 Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act to increase awareness and provide simple recommendations for families to reduce the likelihood of lead poisoning. Since then, HUD and EPA have undertaken extensive educational outreach involving landlords and housing groups to raise awareness of the problem. The Act 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 home buyers 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, new residential paint 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. Lead based paint was used extensively until pre-1960, and then use declined until it was ultimately banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1978.
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 web site at www.hud.gov/lea or EPA's web site at www.epa.gov/lead