Tuesday, November 15, 2016

HFO Exclusive: Washington State DOH Recommends Mandating Lead Testing For All Rentals Built Before 1960

In response to a directive issued on May 2nd by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, the Washington State Department of Health yesterday provided the governor with a report of their recommendations. In addition to recommending testing for schools, and child care facilities the program includes the following recommendation for rental housing.

Directive:
“Determine the viability and potential policy changes associated with developing a Lead Rental  Inspection and Registry Program, to require residential rental properties built before 1978 to register and complete a lead inspection and demonstrate safety at each change of occupancy.”

Recommendations
DOH concluded creating a statewide rental registry and inspection program is not viable based on the indeterminate costs to the public health system. However, lead in older homes poses the greatest risk of exposure to children; therefore, DOH recommends the primary prevention approach of assessing pre-1960 rental units for lead hazards. Municipalities are positioned to adopt comprehensive rental inspection programs that address not only lead, but also other health risks found in homes.

Based on U.S. Census data, the Washington Department of Health estimated there are about 225,000 pre-1960 rental homes in Washington. According to its report, research on lead hazards in homes indicates estimates that 55 percent of those -- 123,522 units -- would have lead hazards.

In Rochester, New York, the average cost of complying with policies to reduce lead in rental housing was $1,700. In Washington, the total cost for landlord compliance would be approximately $382 million.

DOH recommends the Legislature:
  • Amend the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act to require lead assessment of all rental units built before 1960 to determine if there are lead hazards present, and to require remediation if a hazard is identified.
  • Direct DOH to work with municipalities and stakeholders to explore development of a state-supported training program for cities to increase participation in rental inspection programs.
  • Create a remediation fund for landlords providing low-income housing.
Download the report and its executive summary here.