PHILADELPHIA HAS NEW LEAD PAINT LAW FOR RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS

Late last year Philadelphia enacted a new lead paint disclosure law that changes the way residential landlords do business in Philadelphia. Under the Lead Paint Disclosure and Certification (LPDC) ordinance effective later this month, a tenant in targeted situations must be given a lead paint certificate when the lease is first signed. This certificate, prepared by a certified lead inspector, must state that the apartment is either “lead free” or “lead safe”. With respect to a sale as opposed to renting, the seller of real property needs to be presented with either of the two lead designations specified above, or a lead based paint disclosure form prepared by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

As alluded to above, there are two types of lead based certificates. A lead free certificate mean just that, there is no lead contaminated dust, paint, or soil in the property. Lead free certificates have no termination date, but due to a change in the definition of lead free under the new LPDC, lead free certificates that were obtained prior to the effective date of the ordinance will not work. Alternatively, lead safe certificates are issued when there may be lead contaminated material in the property, but it’s not currently a danger. Usually, this happens when it’s suspected there may be lead paint on the walls, but it’s been coated over with so much latex paint that it’s effectively sealed off from causing a problem for the tenants. Lead safe certificates have a limited life span because, for example, top coats of paint that cover the underlying lead based paint can peel away, or lead contaminated soil that is buried or cover by “clean” soil can push up to the surface over time. As a result, the rules require that “lead safe” certificates be no more than 24 months old when the lease begins. In either event, the certificates need to be signed by the tenant and also filed with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

In addition to the certificates, the LPDC also requires certain informational brochures and statements be provided in a Philadelphia residential lease. Many of these rules apply in the case of lease renewals as well, so you do not avoid the costs merely by keeping the same tenants in place.

Not surprisingly, there are significant penalties if a landlord fails to comply with the LPDC. Penalties include exemplary damages up to $2,000 per day, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages, and injunctions to enforce. In addition (and this is the kicker) if rent was already paid by the tenant, the tenant will be entitled to a refund of the paid rent for the entire period of time the landlord was not in compliance with the LPDC.

While there certainly are other issues that need to be examined in becoming compliant with the new Philadelphia lead based paint ordinance, the take away is that residential landlords need to be compliant at the lease start date and not after if they want to avoid serious economic consequences. If you have any questions concerning this ordinance or any other aspect of your real estate ventures, please feel free to contact Douglas Leavitt at Danziger Shapiro & Leavitt.

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