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October 2, 2001
U.S. SETTLES CASES AGAINST CHICAGO, N.Y. AND L.A. LANDLORDS - MORE THAN 16,000 APARTMENTS TO BECOME LEAD SAFE
WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced settlements in cases against three landlords in Chicago for failure to warn their tenants that their homes may contain lead-based paint hazards.
HUD also announced settlements in four administrative cases against landlords in New York City and Los Angeles. The settlements will result in $328,000 in civil penalties and child health improvement projects. The agreements also call for testing and clean up of lead-based paint hazards in more than 16,000 apartments nationwide. The settlements, which are the result of a joint initiative by DOJ, EPA and HUD, as well as state and local health officials, involve violations of the disclosure requirements of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act by apartment owners and management companies.
"These actions send a clear message to landlords and home sellers that they have a responsibility to tell tenants and homebuyers about potential lead hazards," said HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. "We won't sacrifice the futures of our children when it comes to enforcing the law."
Three companies in Chicago - Wolin Levin Inc., East Lake Management and Development Corporation and Oak Park Real Estate Inc. were accused of failing to inform their tenants of potential lead hazards nearly 10,000 apartments in Chicago and Cincinnati. The three agreed to test for and clean up any lead-based paint found in their properties and pay $90,000 in penalties.
In addition, Wolin Levin agreed to pay $100,000 to Chicago's Health Department as part of a child health improvement project. East Lake Management and Development agreed to give $77,000 to a community-based health center to provide free blood lead testing for children living in Chicago and South Chicago.
EPA also filed an administrative complaint against Hyde Park Realty, a company that manages nearly 1,000 apartments in Chicago, alleging 2,600 counts of violating the Lead Hazard Reduction Act's disclosure requirements.
HUD also entered into settlement agreements with four landlords in New York City and Los Angeles that own and manage approximately 6,500 units. The Alpert Development Group, P.J. Alizio Realty, Inc. (in New York City), G & K Management Co., Inc. and Topa Management Company (in Los Angeles) agreed to pay $61,000 in penalties and to test for lead-based paint in their properties and abate any lead-based paint that is found.
Background on Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992:
The Lead Disclosure Rule requires that landlords and sellers of housing constructed prior to 1978 provide each purchaser or tenant with a lead hazard information pamphlet, any information and/or reports concerning lead-based paint hazards in the property and a Lead Warning Statement to be signed by the parties. Sellers are required to provide purchasers with an opportunity to conduct a lead-based paint evaluation.
HUD and DOJ have taken enforcement action in over 8,400 apartments in six cases in Washington, DC, resulting in $112,000 in civil penalties, $181,000 directed to community-based projects to reduce lead poisoning and commitment by landlords to pay $1.7 million to address lead-based paint hazards in their units.
Earlier this year, HUD and DOJ brought the first-ever criminal prosecution in the United States related to the Disclosure Rule. On July 11, a Washington, DC-area landlord pleaded guilty to obstructing a HUD investigation and falsifying documents in order to conceal his failure to notify tenants of the presence lead-based paint hazards. The landlord agreed to serve two years in prison and is subject to a maximum $250,000 fine for each of the six felony counts.
Background on Health Effects of Lead-Based Paint:
Lead exposure causes reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, poorer hearing and a host of other health problems in young children. Many of these effects are thought to be irreversible. In later years, lead-poisoned children are much more likely to drop out of school, become juvenile delinquents and engage in criminal and other anti-social behavior.
At higher levels, lead can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death. Nearly 1 million of the nation's 22 million children under the age of six have blood lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate and learn.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports childhood lead poisoning remains one of the most widespread childhood diseases. In areas with older housing occupied by low-income families, 27 percent of all children are still lead poisoned. While average blood lead levels have declined over the past decade, one in six low-income children living in older housing are lead poisoned. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated.