Author Topic: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?  (Read 2160 times)

labrat

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If any lawyers familiar with PA law can weigh in on this issue it would be great - I understand that replies will NOT constitute legal advice and will be seeking appropriate legal counsel this week.

I just moved to Pittsburgh PA this month and have a child under 6 years old.  Our rental house (single-family dwelling) has multiple areas of chipping and peeling paint (including the bathroom), especially in door frames which are rubbing and creating dust, baseboards, and window sills.  We checked these areas for lead and they tested positive. There are also some other issues with the house, including multiple windows that cannot be secured/latched (one on the ground floor), and a small section of floor upstairs that cannot bear weight (it sags when stepped on). 

I looked into PA and Allegheny County Health Dept. laws and regulations, which unfortunately are very weak and do not allow for action (inspection by health dept/order the landlord to repair) until my child or one of us actually has elevated blood levels of lead.  The landlord did not give us the federally-mandated lead disclosure prior to lease signing; however, federal law also does not mandate that the landlord repair (as I understood the law), nor provide for grounds to terminate the lease (conveniently, it lets the gov't collect fines but doesn't actually do anything to prevent children from lead poisoning caused by lead-based paint hazards...).

Do I have any options here other than requesting my landlord to repair?  What happens if they do not repair or refuse to repair?  What is a reasonable time to allow the landlord to repair? Would this be considered a breach of the implied warranty of habitability in PA?  Do we have any leverage at all?  Can we attempt to negotiate based on the lack of federally-mandated lead disclosure?

We really would prefer not to move; however our child's safety and long-term health are of the utmost importance.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I am seeking legal counsel this week - if anyone would like to weigh in (disclaimers and all) it would be appreciated.

chubbybunny

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2016, 08:40:49 AM »
I guess I'll start with the caveat that I am neither an expert on lead paint nor PA law. Here's my opinion anyway...

At six years old, your child should be old enough to be told "DO NOT EAT THE PAINT!"  If I had a toddler in the house, I would be gravely concerned.  I think at that age you all would be fine.  I would let the landlord know the test results. If they aren't willing to do anything, follow up with the attorney.  But in the meantime, please don't panic about your health.

Fishindude

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2016, 08:52:36 AM »
They haven't used lead paint in many, many years on home interiors.  If it's an old home, I suppose there is a possibility that the original base coat of something might be lead paint, but even so, it's likely been painted over numerous times with latex or oil base material.

Your chances of getting struck by lightening are probably as likely a health hazard.

If you're really paranoid you could peel some off, take it to a lab and get it tested.
You could also talk to your landlord about your concerns, ask for a new paint job and see where that goes.


Lead paint, asbestos, radon, etc. are some of the most over-blown ridiculous fears that have been largely promoted by the legal community looking to make a few bucks off of the litigation.

robartsd

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2016, 10:40:26 AM »
My biggest concern would be the landlord coming in to "fix" it but not doing it properly and creating higher levels of lead dust (short term). If the landlord did in fact fail to provide a notice he was legally required to provide before signing the lease, I would think that would be grounds to break the lease allowing you to move sooner without penalty.

mskyle

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2016, 10:59:42 AM »
I think you need to move. Seriously. The house is in terrible shape. The landlord isn't fixing big, obvious things like windows and floors - he's going to do an equally shitty job with lead abatement. If you really want to stay, you can try to get the landlord to have a professional lead inspector in to see what the hazards are. And making sure you are getting regular blood tests for your child. (Also, I'd consider it less urgent that you move if your child is five and never puts random things in his mouth vs. a crawler who is always licking stuff.)

The landlord's failure to give you the lead disclosure documents may not actually be grounds for you to break the lease, but if he *thinks* it's grounds for you to break the lease or if he feels like it's worth his while to let you break the lease rather than deal with federal fines, it doesn't matter. Plus there are other serious concerns about the house - the windows and floor - which may make be habitability issues on their own.

Talk with your landlord, try to get him to agree to let you break the lease, and move.

labrat

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2016, 06:03:42 PM »
They haven't used lead paint in many, many years on home interiors.  If it's an old home, I suppose there is a possibility that the original base coat of something might be lead paint, but even so, it's likely been painted over numerous times with latex or oil base material.

Your chances of getting struck by lightening are probably as likely a health hazard.

If you're really paranoid you could peel some off, take it to a lab and get it tested.
You could also talk to your landlord about your concerns, ask for a new paint job and see where that goes.


Lead paint, asbestos, radon, etc. are some of the most over-blown ridiculous fears that have been largely promoted by the legal community looking to make a few bucks off of the litigation.

The house we are living in was built in the 20's and has a lot of chipping and peeling lead paint (multiple colors/layers) especially in the bathroom, which hastens the process due to lack of a vent fan. The paint is also peeling/chipping at the top of multiple doors where it rubs against the jamb, leaving chips and dust on the floor every time we open them. Since our child is so young, we are rightfully concerned about them ingesting the paint.  If our child was older, say 5 or 6 and able to follow commands I'd be a lot less concerned.

Coincidentally, a family member passed away from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure - I hardly think these issues are "over-blown".  I am not litigious or looking to make a buck - I just want to keep my kiddo safe and healthy.

My landlord is also an attorney, so the only option is to tell them we will report to the EPA. Any constructive ideas on how to handle this?  Wording for a letter?

jbfishing

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2016, 07:54:51 AM »
Not a lawyer and not legal advice but I have personal experience with lead paint in a house we bought and live in.  Fortunately the paint was in good condition and easily painted over.  Chipping peeling paint can't  be repaired without scaping and sanding before repainting, so the repairs must be done properly, which will cost more, to prevent generating lead dust throughout the house.  How do you guarantee the contractor does it right?   They could end up making the situation worse.  I think you are being sensible in taking the lead hazard seriously.  In this situation i would move out.  Best of luck to you.

labrat

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2016, 12:04:20 PM »
Thanks everyone for the helpful advice.  We also obtained legal advice and sent a certified letter w/return receipt today requesting repairs be conducted by lead-safe methods, by a certified contractor under EPA RRP reg's.  We also mentioned that the repairs were requested "in consideration" of the landlord's failure to disclose.

If lead-safe repairs are made properly, great.  If they do not want to make repairs but will release us from our lease (with a written termination agreement, of course...), that's fine too.  We have learned that skype walk-throughs are not enough, and that we need to vet the landlord better and be more firm in pre-lease execution negotiations, and not sign anything for an older home unless the disclosure is obtained first.  We are lucky to have had great landlords at our previous homes who were quick to address any serious issues promptly, and got the job done by skilled tradesmen.  I'll update once there is any news.

robartsd

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2016, 02:31:52 PM »
not sign anything for an older home unless the disclosure is obtained first.
Older homes aren't the only ones with problems.

YoungRetire

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2016, 10:18:15 PM »
Just move and tell the Landlord why you moved and if people keep moving he will fix it or go out of business.

younggunner

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Re: Chipping/peeling lead paint - possible habitability issue in PA?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2016, 11:00:36 AM »
I can't understand why you would want to seek attorneys, go to court, have a house you are renting be remodeled while you are still living there, etc.  Why not just leave?  Why go through that hassle / headache for you, your family, AND the landlord (who may not have known to begin with. ). Such a hassle for you IMO that's not worth it.  Plenty of other places to rent if you are that worried about it. 

On a side note, I'm pretty certain even painting over lead paint does not actually constitute as "Lead abatement". The lead is still there underneath your new coat of latex paint.  That being said, if the landlord is then required to tear his drywall out and put new in.. You should anticipate your rent will be going up as soon as he can, since his property is now newly remodeled and in new shape (if it isn't already)