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Landlord obligations over lead-based paint in California

Lead is so toxic to humans that even tiny amounts of exposure to lead over the long-term can lead to serious medical problems, including neurological disorders, developmental delays, learning disorders and kidney damage. Children under the age of 6, unborn infants and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure.

The biggest source of lead exposure is through the lead-based paint in consumer goods, homes and their surrounding grounds. While lead-based paint is now banned, there are still remnants of it in use in homes built before 1978. In addition, even in places where the lead-based paint has been removed, the old lead paint can remain behind as dust and tiny chips that can get into the dirt surrounding a building or deep inside its HVAC system. When kids play in that dirt, play in homes with lead-based paint, or breath in the dust from lead-based paint through old HVAC systems, they're getting a lot of that toxic exposure.

However, this is something that's important to understand: landlords in California are not under an obligation to remove the lead-based paint in their rental properties.

Instead, they are obligated to provide prospective tenants with a written disclosure about any known lead-based dangers. They're also required to provide a federal pamphlet that tells people how to avoid lead poisoning.

Also, if they do any renovations on a property built prior to 1978, either before or after a tenant moves in, landlords are required to use contractors who are certified in lead-based paint removal processes.

Sometimes landlords will do the renovations on a property themselves, however, in order to cut costs -- believing that as long as the lead-based paint is covered that there's no real danger. This can leave the next potential tenant exposed to unexpected dangers without advance warning -- which is both illegal and negligent.

Lead poisoning can only be detected through blood testing. However, if you or your child test positive for lead poisoning and you were never warned by your landlord of any known risks, it's important to consider the possibility of a lawsuit -- especially if you believe the landlord either knew or should have known of the danger and failed to notify you as required.

An attorney familiar with premise liability issues can provide more information.

Source: Housing Rights Center, "Make Your Home Lead Safe," accessed April 25, 2017

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