May 2, 2005
U.S. ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT AGAINST MILWAUKEE LANDLORD - 65 HOUSING UNITS TO BECOME LEAD SAFE
Agreement signals increasing federal and local coordination in protecting children
MILWAUKEE - The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin today announced a settlement against a landlord for failing to warn tenants that their homes may contain hazards due to the presence of deteriorating lead-based paint. The civil settlement announced today is the result of extensive coordination among local health officials and federal investigators and is the first such joint enforcement action in the State of Wisconsin.
Will J. Sherard and his management company, W.J. Sherard Realty Company, currently own and manage 39 properties, containing approximately 65 rental units, primarily in the inner city of Milwaukee. The City of Milwaukee had previously ordered Sherard to correct lead hazards in some of his units after local health officials identified 12 children who were lead poisoned while they lived in homes he owned or managed.
As a result of the settlement, Sherard and his management company are required to test for lead-based paint hazards and replace the windows in all his properties within two years (see attached list). Sherard is initially required to replace windows in those units where young children live. In addition, Sherard must completely eliminate all lead-based paint hazards in the units, common areas, and exteriors of his properties within four years, completing those units with young children first, and pay a $15,000 penalty. Under the terms of the settlement, Sherard does not admit to any wrongdoing.
"Today's announcement should be a warning to landlords who ignore their legal and moral responsibilities to their tenants," said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. "HUD's enforcement is specifically targeted against landlords who operate without regard to the health and safety of families living in their properties."
"By bringing enforcement action against this landlord, EPA is restating that protecting our children's health from lead-based paint exposure is one of our highest priorities," said Acting EPA Region 5 Administrator Bharat Mathur. "To this end, we will vigorously pursue compliance with this rule."
United States Attorney Steven Biskupic said, "We believe that the settlement being announced today works towards better protecting children from the hazards of lead-based paint and the long-lasting ramifications on children who are poisoned. "We acknowledge and appreciate the leadership of the City of Milwaukee, HUD, and EPA on this issue."
Mayor Tom Barrett said, "The City of Milwaukee has strong lead enforcement tools, but this decree will serve as one more tool available to deal with the worst property owners in Milwaukee. This is great example of five government agencies working together for the common goal of making housing in our community lead safe."
The allegations in this case involve violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 and the Lead Disclosure Rule. The law and its regulations require sellers and landlords of housing built before 1978 to provide each purchaser or tenant with a lead information pamphlet, any available information and/or reports concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the property, and a Lead Warning Statement to be signed by the parties. Sellers are also required to provide purchasers with an opportunity to conduct a lead-based paint inspection and/or risk assessment at the purchaser's expense.
In response to requests from both the State of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Health Department, HUD, EPA and the U.S. Attorney's Office began investigating Sherard's compliance with the Lead Disclosure Rule. After issuing several orders to clean up lead hazards, the City of Milwaukee was forced to conduct lead hazard control work on Sherard's properties and billed him nearly $50,000 to offset the cost of their work. To date, Sherard has not reimbursed the city.
EPA sought to inspect Sherard's lease agreements in February and March of 2003, as authorized by the Lead Disclosure Rule. After receiving no response, EPA issued a subpoena on March 14, 2003, requesting copies of lease documents for all residential units he owned and/or managed since September 1, 1999. After reviewing all of the information provided by Sherard and investigators, federal investigators determined that Sherard violated his lead disclosure obligations.
The settlement announced today represents the first joint Lead Disclosure Rule enforcement action in Wisconsin. Last month, HUD, EPA and the Justice Department reached agreements with two landlords based in Minneapolis, resulting in 250 apartments in three states becoming lead safe. More information on those settlements.
HUD, EPA and the Department of Justice are pursuing similar joint enforcement efforts around the nation. To date, these joint enforcement actions have affected more than 177,524 housing units across the country resulting in $747,882 in civil penalties. In addition, a total of $488,750 have been paid directly to community-based health projects to reduce lead poisoning and, in settling their cases, landlords have committed to pay an estimated $24 million to address lead-based paint hazards in the affected units.
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. In a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that even at low levels, lead exposure in children can significantly impact IQ and even delay puberty in young girls.
At higher levels, lead can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400,000 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. CDC estimates that the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels has been cut in half since the early 1990's, although the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in low-income, older housing without Federal assistance remains high. In fact, one in six low-income children living in older unassisted housing is believed to be lead poisoned. HUD estimates that the number of houses with lead paint has declined from 64 million in 1990 to 38 million in 2000. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
SHERARD PROPERTIES COVERED UNDER THE AGREEMENT
2643-45 North 4th Street
2. 3454-56 North 9th Street
3. 4106 North 24th Place
4. 2839-39A North 12th Street
5. 3434 North 12th Street
6. 2935-35A North 16th Street
7. 3445 North 16th Street
8. 3946-46A North 15th Street
9. 2625-25A North 17th Street
10. 3522-22A North 19th Street
11. 3003 North 21st Street
12. 3249-49A North 35th Street
13. 3278-78A North 24th Street
14. 3391-91A North 20th Street
15. 2720-22 North 21st Street
16. 3833-33A North 23rd Street
17. 3291-91A North 24th Street
18. 2742-44 North 26th Street
19. 2841-43 North 27th Street
20. 3328 North 26th Street
3017-17A North 28th Street
22. 3366 North 28th Street
23. 4065-65A North 24th Place
24. 4343 North 25th Street
25. 2231 West Capitol
26. 3802 West Capitol
27. 4063-65 North Elmhurst
28. 2757 North 16th Street
29. 3369-69A North Palmer Street
30. 3433-33A North Richards
31. 1914-16 West Vienna
32. 2468-70 West Burleigh
33. 2400-00A West Finn Place
34. 3314 West McKinley
35. 4576 North 36th Street
36. 6172 North 39th Street
37. 3119 West Walnut Street
38. 1944 North 37th Street
39. 1967 North 36th Street