New regulations for Maryland rental property owners aim to curb lead paint in apartments and homes. It's estimated that more than 300,000 units will now be affected.
Stricter rules regarding lead paint for Maryland rental property owners have kept state officials busy in 2015 fielding calls and registering properties. The goal of the new regulations is to protect more residents, especially children, from the dangers of lead poisoning.
“We are accepting registration online, but we have also received a large volume of registrations in the mail,” says Jay Apperson, a spokesman with the Maryland Department of the Environment. “We have taken steps to accommodate this volume.” Those steps include adding staff and expanding registration options.
Under the 2015 changes, owners of rental properties built before 1978 — the year lead paint was banned nationally — must follow requirements from Maryland’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Among the requirements: Registering with the state, giving tenants information about the dangers of lead and having inspectors check units.
Previously, these rules only applied to rental units built before 1950.
“Our priority is to get as many properties registered as quickly as possible to help advance our mission to eliminate childhood lead poisoning,” Apperson says.
The dangers of lead paint in homes
Lead exposure poses a significant and widespread environmental hazard for children, especially from birth to age 6. Such exposure can cause long-term neurological damage and learning problems, according to state officials.
“Children are most vulnerable to the dangers of lead paint exposure, especially those in predominantly minority and low-income communities,” says Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Many housing options in those neighborhoods, Giles adds, are likely to contain lead-based paint.
Maryland officials estimate the new regulations cover 330,000 rental units built between 1950 and 1978. Before you sign a lease on an apartment, it’s important to make sure that the complex is in proper compliance with state regulations.
Several highly rated painting companies in the Mid-Atlantic region specialize in lead paint removal and can be a helpful resource for rental property owners.
Be sure to ask a company what licenses they hold. That’s extra important in the D.C. area as three jurisdictions — D.C., Virginia and Maryland — have different licensing lead paint removal rules and regulations.
For example, Geller Environmental Labs in Fairfax, Virginia, offers residential surveys for lead, but typically limits that part of their work to Virginia.
“The regulations in Maryland change so often,” says president Jack Geller. “I would recommend that you hire a lead licensed individual whose primary inspection areas are in Maryland.”
Geller does have one tip for those looking to hire someone to assess their property and remove any lead paint: “References are always a must in this industry.”
RELATED: Lead Paint Safety: What You Need To Know
Lead paint removal precautions
The following precautions are recommended for removing lead paint:
• Work in one room at a time, and seal off the work area from the rest of the house, including any heating or ventilation ducts, using heavy plastic sheets.
• Everything in the room (furniture, rugs, carpets, bedding, drapes, etc.) must be removed, or covered with two sheets of plastic and all the seams taped. Plastic used to cover the floor should be secured to the wall or baseboard with duct tape.
• Workers should wear disposable coveralls, shoes, hair covering, goggles and a respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health or the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Simple paper or fabric dust masks will not protect a worker from lead dust.
• To avoid ingesting lead, workers should not eat, drink or smoke on the job.