A Landlord’s Lament: Lead Paint
In January of 2008, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law, which has been codified as N.J.S.A. 46:8-28.5, requiring lead paint inspection to tenant-occupied single or two family residential properties, including two-family properties in which one unit is owner-occupied. This requires landlords of these units to register with the New Jersey Department of Community affairs. (Certain exemptions may apply.) Although, with respect to one and two-family homes, the DCA may respond that it does not have a system of registration and investigation yet in place, nevertheless, it is the prudent landlord who submits the required information and fee to the DCA.
Because it is part of a landlord’s best practice to maintain premises in good repair for tenants and children, registration with the DCA for lead paint is a must for landlords.
Lead, which is found in lead-based paint, is a toxin, which may damage red blood cells, kidneys and nervous system. Lead is particularly hazardous to infants and children under the age of six because their nervous system and organs are developing. In re Lead Paint Litigation, 191 N.J. 405 (2007).
Under Federal regulations, landlords are required to disclose known information on lead-based surfaces before a lease takes place. Under N.J.S.A. 24:14A-5 and -7, lead paint in dwellings is a “public nuisance” that must be removed by a landlord. Under negligence principles, a landlord is subject to a lawsuit if the dwelling is readily accessible to children and a landlord knew or should have known of a lead paint hazard.
According to Ruiz ex rel. Ruiz v. Kaprelian, 322 N.J. Super. 460, a 1999 New Jersey Appellate Division case, a landlord’s warranty of habitability includes an obligation to take reasonable measures to assure that a “multiple dwelling” unit (three or more units or any group of ten or more buildings on a parcel of land) does not contain dangerous level of lead paint. This does not mean that a landlord is absolutely liable for any injuries. Rather, a landlord may be liable if he had known or should have known of the presence of lead paint. Thus, under the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law, the landlord of a multiple dwelling must register with the New Jersey Bureau of Housing Inspection in the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”). Registration will subject premises to required lead paint investigation approximately once every five years.
Please call us if you have any questions or need assistance with this type of matter.
Sylvia Hall, Esq.