A California assemblyman is taking steps to protect California children from lead poisoning. In response to reports about higher rates of lead poisoning among children in certain parts of the state, Assemblyman Bill Quirk of Hayward introduced a bill that would require lead testing for all young children.
In 2012, more than 650,000 California children under the age of 21 were tested for lead, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. About 2% of those children or 16,000 kids had lead levels in their blood considered potentially unsafe. Lead poisoning could lead to increased risk for heart and kidney damage, future reproductive problems, and brain and nerve damage.
Children under the age of 6 showed particularly high rates of lead exposure in certain parts of California. Certain neighborhoods in the Fresno and Alameda areas actually tested worse than Flint, Michigan, where lead contaminated the public drinking water for years.
According to a Reuters analysis, 7% of children who were screened in the Fruitvale area of Oakland and more than 6% of children tested in Selma, near Fresno, had elevated levels of the toxic metal in their blood. In comparison, about 5% of children tested in Flint showed high levels of lead in their blood.
In response to these findings, Quirk introduced a bill that would require lead testing for all children ages 6 months to 6 years. Right now, only children receiving aid from government assistance programs or who live in homes built prior to 1978 are tested.
While this bill could help with the safety and welfare of our kids, it could also change the way real estate investors operate in California and in potentially in other states.
Disclosure Requirements for Landlords
Currently, landlords are required to disclose lead-based paint hazards before they rent or renovate a property with some exemptions. A property might be exempt because it was permitted before 1978, is a loft, an efficiency, a studio, a short-term rental, or was previously certified as lead-free by a state-accredited inspector. But if this bill goes through, those exemptions might change.
Both tenant and landlord must also sign a disclosure document to prove that the tenants were warned about the existence of lead-based paint or lead hazards on the property. Landlords must also hand out an EPA pamphlet on protecting family members from lead in the home. Failure to take these simple steps can results in a $16,000 penalty for each violation.
There are many ways that kids are exposed to lead. It can get into the water from old pipes as it did in Michigan. It can be inhaled as dust from soil. And it can be brought into the home by parents or family members who are exposed to lead dust where they work.
Lead Exposure Liability for Property Owners
It depends. If a child is found to have unacceptable levels of lead exposure, the landlord would probably need to provide documentation certifying that the home is in the clear. To protect yourself ahead of time, consider conducting additional testing on your property, especially if it’s an older building. Chances are that the original paint had lead, so you need to make sure that paint isn’t peeling and is adequately sealed so that children are not exposed.
Furthermore, if you own investment property in the areas identified by the state as especially problematic for lead exposure, you might end up having to take remedial action to deal with contaminated soil and water.
In real estate, it always pays to err on the side of being prepared. And often times those preparations are not costly if you take steps before there’s a problem.
If you’d like to know more about lead poisoning in California, the state has made the entire study available to the public — that includes a list of places where lead exposure is highest. Getting all the facts in advance will give you peace of mind and your portfolio a more peaceful existence.
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