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     Karen J. McLinden
      Phone 508-677-3233
       Fax 508-679-2006
       657 Pleasant St., Fall River, MA 02721 
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New Lead Paint Laws in Rhode Island

If you own Rhode Island rental property, youíre well aware of the monthly dilemma. The rent check is ďin the mailĒ but the mortgage is due tomorrow; the latest utility rate hike wasnít accompanied by a payment extension; and unit 4B needs a new stove. Well, now thereís another expense to add to the list.

Rhode Islandís new lead hazard mitigation law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2005 placing new time and fiscal responsibilities upon rental property owners statewide. Prior to that date however, a newly formed Legislative Commission on Lead Hazard Mitigation is reviewing the law and preparing to make recommendations to the General Assembly. So, though the deadline is fast approaching, most property owners are hanging in limbo, awaiting the final outcome of the commissionís labors before following through with compliance requirements. To date, only about 6,000 landlords of an estimated 45,000 have taken the three-hour lead mitigation course mandated by the new legislation. Just 3,800 of Rhode Islandís 145,000 units have been issued the necessary lead safe certificates or Certificates of Conformance ó documents required by the new law and in most cases, necessary for continued insurance coverage after the July 1 deadline.

The lead hazard mitigation law is intended to protect children from the dangers of lead paint poisoning. Though it was originally scheduled to be enacted last July 1, inadequate outreach to the public left property owners either confused or unaware of the new requirements altogether. Legislators halted the implementation for one year - to July 1, 2005, to allow for adequate time to not only inform rental property owners of their new responsibilities, but also to determine if those responsibilities are warranted.

While no one disputes the importance of an ongoing plan to eradicate the danger of lead paint among Rhode Islandís at risk children, it should be pointed out that the state has made tremendous progress in reducing incidents of poisonings over the past decade. Statistics point to an 80 percent drop in cited cases and all but three communities currently meet the Department of Healthís established statewide goal. Incidents of poisoning occur primarily in the urban core and the Department of Health tracks not only high risk areas, but also individual repeat offenders. Yet the new lead law affects all long term rental property, (rents longer than 31 days,) with no definitive strategy to target the specific known problem areas or the repeat offenders. Additionally, though lead paint poisoning particularly endangers children under six, the legislation requires all rental properties to be in compliance regardless of the characteristics of its tenants. Consequently, landlords in every Rhode Island town will be equally affected by the burdens and costs associated with compliance. It is precisely this approach that has led some legislators to believe that the new law lacks much-needed focus.

The effects of the new law, as itís currently written, remain to be seen. For instance, how will it affect the availability and affordability of Rhode Islandís housing stock? Inspections and mitigation procedures cost money and increased costs usually translate into increased rents. Insurance is already proving to be a big issue as countless numbers of private carriers have opted out of providing coverage in Rhode Island, leaving property owners searching for new, more expensive sources of insurance protection. And, given the liability issues involved, will landlords shy away from renting to families with young children altogether, as many have hinted?

Proponents argue that the legislation should be implemented this July as is. Opponents counter that Rhode Island canít afford to go down a path that could adversely affect the availability of housing for young families already struggling to make ends meet. And while all agree that the intent of the law is positive, many wonder if the current structure of the law could prove to do as much harm as it does good.

With only two short months left until the implementation date, it hardly seems feasible that the commission will be able to do its job without another deadline delay.

The Legislative Commission on Lead Hazard Mitigation is encouraging Rhode Islanders affected by this issue to contact them. Comments and questions can be sent to the Legislative Commission on Lead Hazard Mitigation, Room 21, State House, Providence, RI 02903 and commission meetings are open to the public. Given adequate time for careful review and implementation of a targeted new lead law, Rhode Island can develop a plan that protects all its citizens, tenants and property owners alike.





© 2013, Karen McLinden & Century 21 Real Estate LLC. CENTURY 21ģ is a registered trademark licensed to Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each Office is Independently Owned and Operated.


© 2013, Karen McLinden & Century 21 Real Estate LLC. CENTURY 21ģ is a registered trademark licensed to Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each Office is Independently Owned and Operated.