Maryland Department of the Environment
Baltimore Landlord Assessed Major Fine for Lead Violations
Decision is largest penalty in state’s lead enforcement history
BALTIMORE, MD (May 30, 2001) – In keeping with Maryland’s revitalized lead initiatives Administrative Law Judge Stephen Nichols recently issued a Proposed Decision assessing an administrative penalty of $100,000 against Baltimore landlord S & S Partnership for violations of the Maryland Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing laws in one of its rental units.
S&S is part of a group controlled by one of the largest private landlords in Baltimore City. The decision is the largest penalty obtained to date in enforcement of the lead paint law.
In a May 4th ruling, the judge found that S & S did not comply with the law's full and modified lead paint risk reduction standards. The law requires landlords to bring pre-1950 rental units into compliance with lead hazard risk reduction standards whenever there is tenant turnover, upon receipt of notice that a property has chipping, peeling, flaking paint or a child with an elevated blood lead level has lived in the dwelling.
As of February 24, property owners also had to insure that 50 percent of their rental units had been brought into compliance with the risk reduction standards regardless of whether there was a turnover or other triggering event.
In the S & S Partnership case, the judge assessed the maximum penalty after hearing evidence during a two day trial in March. The evidence showed that S&S failed to have a rental property in the 3800 block of Belle Avenue properly inspected for lead risks and failed to file a lead risk reduction certificate with MDE.
Judge Nichols concluded, "the failure to satisfy the requirements of the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law creates a clear potential for harm to human health" and that "it is irrefutable…that exposure to lead from lead dust and paint chips in any amount causes harm to an infant."
"This decision emphasizes our message to landlords of older properties that ignoring the hazards of lead paint poisoning and the law is totally unacceptable," said MDE Secretary Jane Nishida. "MDE is focusing its resources to vigorously enforce the lead laws of the State."
The Secretary added that although MDE is stepping up its enforcement efforts, it will continue to work with property owners by entering into agreements with those who are committed to achieving compliance with the lead paint law. This decision also recognizes the importance of lead risk reduction work being performed by accredited lead contractors and inspected by accredited inspectors.
Nationally, almost one million pre-school age children have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood which may result in poor school performance, inability to read, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or even mental retardation. In 1998, approximately 5,840 Maryland children were reported to have exposure levels high enough to inflict irreversible harm.