Getting the Lead out

GTA - Sam Stevenson Headshot-smallPublished in Maryland Building Industry Association’s, Build Maryland Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015

by Samuel J. Stevenson, Geo-Technology Associates, Inc.

January 1, 2015 marks a new era in Maryland’s Lead-Based Paint (LBP) registration process for residential rental properties. Although the new registration process is simpler than the old process in many ways, it also entails mandatory reg­istration for a wider range of properties. And simpler does not necessarily mean cheaper; the overall compliance costs will likely increase, especially for properties that have LBP. Owners and operators need to understand the nuances of the new regulations in order to manage the costs and liabilities.

The new registration process applies to all residential rental dwelling units built prior to 1978 (i.e., 12/31/1977 or earlier). The old rules differentiated between units built prior to 1950 (reg­istration was required) and units built between 1950 and 1978 (registration was optional). The new rules eliminate that distinction; all residential dwelling units built prior to 1978 must be registered.

Rental properties will fall into one of several categories. The following simpli­fied summary presents the options.

  1. Unit is “Lead-Free”
    1. The property was inspected by an MDE-accredited inspector and meets the MDE’s “Lead-Free” standard. This means that the entire property is free of LBP.
    2. The units still must be registered for a fee of $10 per unit.
    3. The registration fee is paid one time, and no other registration fees are required.
    4. No lead risk reduction measures are necessary.
    5. Relatively speaking, the long-term financial obligation regarding LBP is low in this category.
  1. Unit is “Limited Lead-Free”
    1. The property was inspected by an MDE-accredited inspector, and the interior meets the MDE’s “Lead- Free” standard, but LBP is present on exterior surfaces.
    2. The units still must be registered for a fee of $10 per unit.
    3. The registration fee is paid one time, and no other registration fees are required.
    4. The exterior areas must be re-inspected every two years, on or before the date of the original inspection.
    5. Relatively speaking, the long-term financial obligation regarding LBP is moderate in this category, due to the biannual inspection requirement.
  1. Unit Contains LBP
    1. The property was inspected by an MDE-accredited inspector and the interior contains LBP.
    2. The units still must be registered for a fee of $30 per unit.
    3. The registration fee must be paid every year ($30 per unit).
    4. The unit must meet the “Full Risk Reduction Standard” at each change of occupancy of the unit, meaning that prior to each change in occu­pancy, an MDE-accredited inspector must inspect for lead dust. In order to pass the inspection, the unit must be free of defective paint on the interior and exterior of the property.
    5. In special cases where paint defects are reported, or an elevated blood level is reported in a child or pregnant woman, an affected unit must meet a “Modified Risk Reduction Standard,” which is a further complication.
    6. Relatively speaking, the long-term financial obligation regarding LBP is high in this category, because of the following:
      1. the relentless annual registration fees of $30 per unit,
      2. the costs of re-inspections that are needed prior to unit turnover (with potential rental income lost due to delays to accommodate the re-inspection), and
      3. the additional maintenance costs and management challenges associated with operating and renting a unit with LBP.

Additionally, note that new owners must register within 30 days of acqui­sition. And all owners must register on or before December 31 of each year. Furthermore, nuances exist in interpre­tation of special situations, such as when properties were constructed in phases that span before and after 1978, properties that have been renovated, and other special circumstances.

What are some of the take-away points for the residential rental community?

  1. If your property or specific units have not yet been tested, it will be necessary to perform an inspection to determine which category applies.
  2. The long-term costs for compliance will be significantly lower for Lead- Free or Limited Lead-Free properties. Therefore, it may be worth the front-end costs of lead abatement in order to obtain the Lead-Free or Limited Lead-Free designation.
  3. Engage a knowledgeable LBP consultant to evaluate your registration and com­pliance options. For many properties, a cost-benefit analysis will provide important insight.

 

Sam Stevenson is an Associate with Geo-Technology Associates, Inc. (GTA) and has over 20 years of environmental consulting experience.