How do you know if your home has lead-based paint?
Almost all homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint.
If your home was built before 1978, your landlord should have told you about any lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards that he or she knew of in the home. Landlords are required to do this under the federal Real Estate Disclosure Rule, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Before the signing of a lease, the landlord must:
- Disclose any known information about lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, including paint locations and the condition of the painted surfaces.
- Provide all records and reports on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards that are available to the landlord.
- Provide a copy of the EPA’s pamphlet, Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home. This pamphlet is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic, and Somali.
- Include an attachment to the lease (or insert language into the lease itself) that includes a Lead Warning Statement and that confirms that the landlord has complied with the disclosure rules. This attachment or insert must be in the same language as the rest of the lease. The landlord and the tenant must both sign and date it.
You can test the painted surfaces in your home to see if they contain lead. Read about the different types of tests in our sections, Protecting Your Family from Lead and Testing Your Home. You do not need permission to have your home inspected or tested, but you are responsible for the cost. You may also be responsible if the testing results in damage to painted surfaces.
Does your home contain a lead hazard?
- If your home does have lead-based paint it is not necessarily a hazard. Look for paint that is peeling, cracking, or chipping. Damaged paint can create lead dust and paint chips that can be breathed in or swallowed. Look in areas where painted surfaces experience friction, such as window sashes and door jambs, porches and stair treads. (Old varnish can also contain lead, so include varnished surfaces in your inspection.)
- Make sure your home is not currently under a health-department lead hazard control order. These orders require the owner to have lead hazards removed from the property. Some landlords may ignore lead orders and try to rent out the units illegally. Contact your local health department.
- Hire a licensed lead inspector or lead-risk assessor to inspect your home. You can find inspectors and risk-assessors by conducting a search on the Ohio Department of Health’s website. You do not need your landlord’s permission, but you will be responsible for the cost. It’s worth checking to see if your community has access to HUD Lead Hazard Control grant funds. If your household is eligible, the program can cover the cost of inspections and lead hazard control. See the OHHN Resource’s Directory for resources in your county.
- If you have evidence that there is a lead hazard in your home, DO NOT stop paying your rent. You can be legally evicted if you do not pay your rent on time and in full. Notify your landlord of your concerns in writing, being as specific as possible. Get legal advice on what you can do if your landlord does not make the repairs you feel are necessary.
- Ohio’s lead poisoning law only requires landlords to remove lead hazards in cases where a child has already been lead-poisoned. If your landlord is unwilling or unable to control the lead hazards in your unit and/or building and you are pregnant or have young children, you may want to consider moving to a unit in better condition, one built after 1978 or a unit that has been made lead-safe.
If your pre-1978 apartment or rented home has lead-based paint, even small renovation projects, such as painting, can create enough dust to cause lead poisoning.
- Pregnant women and children should not participate in renovations or clean-up, and should be kept away from the work-area until it is properly cleaned and tested.
- Lead-safe work practices should be employed on all projects that disturb lead-paint.
- For most pre-1978 housing, owners of rental units are required by federal law to follow the RRP Rule. You can read more about RRP at EPA’s RRP Rule.
- For most rental property, the RRP Rule applies whether the owner does the work, pays contractors do the work, or arranges for the tenant to do the work.
- The owner and renovator must take specific steps to ensure lead-safety during the project and must follow specific lead-safe work practices and avoid prohibited practices that cause lead-hazards.
- The owner must make sure that tenants receive the EPA’s brochure, The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools, before the renovation project begins.
- The renovation site must pass a lead-clearance exam before it can be used again as a living area. The owner must give tenants the results of any tests.
- Do not disturb the painted surfaces in your home.
- Control moisture that can degrade paint-make sure bathrooms and kitchens are properly vented.
- Properly clean to control dust.
- Don’t take lead into your home on items that come into contact with lead-dust, such as work-clothing.
- For more information, see Keep Your Child Safe from Lead Poisoning.
What if your child is poisoned?
- The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) monitors all the blood-test results for children under 16. If your child’s test reveals an elevated blood-lead level, ODH or your local health department will work with you to assist your child. The strategies used will depend on the severity of the poisoning, as measured by the child’s blood-lead level. ODH explains the steps they will take in their guide, Your Child Has Had a Blood Lead Test-What Does it Mean?
- If the blood test reveals a case of lead poisoning (returning a blood-lead level of 5 µg/dL or more) then the health department will investigate the source of the poisoning. Investigations are explained in ODH’s pamphlet, Public Health Lead Investigations.
- For levels above 10 µg/dL, the health department may send a case manager, a lead inspector, or a lead risk-assessor to your home. Your landlord cannot legally prevent them from visiting or from inspecting your home.
- You and the landlord will receive copies of the health department investigation report, including the results of all inspections and tests. The landlord will not be given any information about the lead-poisoned child.
- The investigation may determine that the source of the lead-poisoning is not a lead-hazard in your home. The health department will investigate other sites at which a lead-poisoned child spends more than six hours a day, such as a child-care facility.
If a health department investigation determines that a child has been poisoned as the result of lead-based paint hazards in the home, then the property will be put under a lead-order. The owner will be told what constitutes the lead-hazard and what needs to be done to remove the hazard, and will be given a date by which the work must be completed. The work must be done by a licensed lead-abatement contractor and must pass a clearance test conducted by a licensed lead risk-assessor to show that the hazard has been removed completely. If the owner does not comply with the lead-order, the owner may be ordered to vacate the building. No one will be allowed to inhabit the building until the hazards are removed and the order is lifted.
For more information and lists of outstanding lead orders, see our section on Lead Orders.
With or without a lease, tenants and owners have certain rights and duties under the law. Landlords cannot transfer the legal responsibilities and duties placed on them to their tenants, even if they include such terms in the lease. Owners and tenants cannot agree to waive certain rights or to ignore legal requirements, such as health and building codes, and such agreements cannot be enforced.
- If your landlord fails to fulfill an obligation imposed by Ohio Landlord/Tenant Law, or by your lease, or by a government agency acting to enforce building, health, safety codes, DO NOT WITHHOLD YOUR RENT. Withholding rent can get you evicted, whether or not your complaint is fair.
- Instead, you may be eligible to start the escrow process. You may be able to deposit your rent with the Clerk of Courts instead of paying the landlord directly. The landlord will have to fix the problem before the court will release the money.
- To be eligible to use the escrow process, you must first give written notice to your landlord of what specific problems need to be fixed. You must also be current in all your rent payments. If your landlord does not fix the problems within thirty days, you may start to escrow your rent.
- If you follow these steps to become eligible to escrow your rent, you may alternatively choose to ask the court to order the repairs, to reduce all rent-due until the problems are fixed, and/or to release any escrowed rent-money to you so that you can make the repairs. You can also ask the court to terminate the lease so that you can move out.
- Seek legal advice to determine what your duties and rights are in your particular situation.
Federal Fair Housing Law
- Property owners cannot discriminate against tenants, or prospective tenants, on the basis of “familial status.” Unless a unit qualifies as housing for the elderly, an owner cannot refuse to rent to you because you have children, or evict you because you have children. Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.
- This means that it is illegal for owners to refuse to rent to a tenant with children in order to avoid liability in a case of lead-poisoning.
- It is illegal for owners to evict tenants with children in order to avoid liability in lead-poisoning.
- It is illegal for an owner to evict a tenant after learning that a resident child has lead-poisoning, or after being notified of a lead-hazard in the property.
- Consult an attorney to determine if you have been the victim of housing discrimination.
Finding Affordable Legal Advice
The Ohio Legal Services is a nonprofit law firm founded in 1966 by the Ohio State Bar Association. The OSLSA website lets you search for legal services across the state by zip-code or county.