Landlord Fined $500K for Not Complying with Lead Poisoning Prevention Laws

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced a settlement with a major New York City landlord. The agreement resolves an investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) investigation that found that the company was not in compliance with apartment inspection, lead hazard remediation, and other key requirements of New York City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

What you need to know: As part of this settlement, the owner agreed to continue to bring its apartments into compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, and to report its compliance to the OAG for the next three years. The owner will also pay $510,000 to the OAG for initiatives aimed at protecting children from lead poisoning. This is the first agreement resulting from investigations that the OAG is conducting into New York City apartment building owner and operators’ compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

And according to the OAG, there are other related ongoing investigations. The OAG has been pursuing legal actions across New York to hold owners accountable for lead paint-related hazards.

One level deeper: The OAG’s investigation into the owner's real estate holdings began in 2018 and the investigation determined that the owner violated several provisions of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act related to notice requirements, annual inquiries, and turnover procedures. Specifically, the owner:

  • Did not ensure that tenants filled out the lease notice indicating whether children under the age of 6 would live in the apartment and did not ensure that it recorded that information;
  • Did not do the required follow-up when tenants did not respond to annual notices regarding whether children under the age of 6 lived in an apartment;
  • Did not confirm that it performed annual lead paint hazard investigations of all apartments where lease notices or annual notices indicated a child under the age of 6 lived;
  • Did not investigate for hazards beyond peeling lead paint prior to 2019;
  • Informed tenants of the results of annual investigations only when it discovered lead paint hazards and addressed work orders; and
  • Could not confirm that it complied with the requirements imposed by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act when an apartment was vacated, and it did not certify in new leases that it had done so.

One takeaway: Recently, there’s been an increased investigative and regulatory focus on combatting lead poisoning. Over the past few years, New York City has made several important updates to the NYC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (Local Law 1 of 2004), strengthening existing lead laws and expanding inspection requirements for landlords and building owners.

Most recently, Local Law 29 of 2020 went into effect earlier this year. It expanded the definition of buildings with “multiple dwellings” to includes one- and two-family house rentals except the units occupied by the owners’ family. Before Local Law 29 went into effect, most of Local Law 1, NYC’s lead poisoning prevention law, had applied to residential buildings with three or more units. And per Local Law 66 of 2019, the new threshold for defining lead-based paint will be lowered from 1.0 mg/cm2 to 0.5 mg/cm2 starting on Dec. 1, 2021.