HUD Issues Guidance on Implementing Lead Safe Housing Rule
Preventing lead poisoning in children who will be born in 2018 would provide an estimated $84 billion in long-term benefits, according to a recent report from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The savings would come from reduced spending on health care costs, special education, juvenile justice, and other social services. The report says, “Lead-poisoned children are more likely to struggle in school, drop out, get into trouble with the law, underperform in the workplace, and earn less throughout their lives, independent of other social and economic factors.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no safe level of lead for children. Researchers have found that even at low levels, lead can damage a child’s brain, lowering intelligence and damaging his or her self-control and attention span. Earlier this year, HUD updated the Lead Safe Housing Rule (LSHR) to reflect the advice of the CDC with regard to children’s blood lead levels for all federally assisted housing. The revised rule adopts a lower threshold for children’s blood lead levels, dropping the lead level that requires action by apartment owners from 10 ug/dl to 5 ug/dll.
Under the rule, when a child has been found to have an elevated blood lead level of 5 ug/dl, the housing provider is required to perform a series of interventions, including notifying the HUD field office and the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and performing a risk inspection of the child’s housing unit and the common areas serving it. It is no longer sufficient to visually inspect these areas for deteriorated paint; under the updated rule a certified risk assessor must make the determination regarding the presence of potential lead hazards.
The rule also gives HUD the authority to recalibrate this level based on national survey data. This new level matches that recommended by the CDC, which describes levels in excess of this amount as “elevated blood lead levels” (EBLL). While the LSHR applies to all federally owned and assisted housing built prior to 1978, the requirements vary per program, including which party or individual is responsible for various activities.
HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing recently issued Notice PIH 2017-13, providing guidance regarding actions that must be taken when a child under the age of 6 is found to have an EBLL. This notice applies to public housing agencies (PHAs), Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) property owners, and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) property owners.
The notice describes a basic set of responsibilities and the actions a PHA or an owner is responsible for, depending on the form of housing assistance. In general, when there is a confirmed case of EBLL, the HUD Field Office and Headquarters Office of Lead Hazard Control must be notified, as well as the local public health department if the EBLL is identified by a medical healthcare professional not associated with the health department.
The PHA must conduct an “environmental investigation” of the child’s unit and common areas serving that unit. An environmental investigation is a “risk assessment” with additional questions for the family regarding other sources of lead exposure such as water or daycare settings and tests those other potential sources of lead exposure. A risk assessment includes a visual inspection of a unit and limited wipe samplings. If lead-based paint hazards are found in the child’s unit, the PHA must perform risk assessments in other units where a child under the age of 6 lives or is expected to live, as well as risk assessments of common areas serving those units. Random sampling is allowed for buildings built before 1960 that have more than 20 units and for properties built between 1960 and 1977 with more than 10 units.
Where lead-paint hazards exist, they must be controlled (generally within 30 days) by someone certified to abate or remove lead-paint hazards. PHAs must ensure that public housing units and common areas are maintained as lead-safe and must conduct periodic re-evaluations every two years using a certified risk assessor.
If the annual amount of PBV for a unit is more than $5,000, the owner must conduct the re-evaluation every two years. And PBV properties receiving more than $5,000 per unit annually are required to ensure that a risk assessment is conducted by a certified risk assessor regardless of whether there is a child under the age of 6 living in a unit.
In the HCV and PBV context, PHAs must also monitor owners’ compliance, which may be performed in conjunction with periodic Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections; HQS inspections must occur no less frequently than once a year if there was deteriorated paint or other known lead-based paint hazards.
Required Steps for PHA or Owner
Here are the main steps to take for an owner or PHA when responding to an elevated blood lead level case.
- Verify EBLL case report with medical provider or health department, if report came from elsewhere.
- Maintain confidentiality for all records related to the EBLL, and ensure the identity of the child or family are not disclosed to other residents in multiunit property.
- Notify health department of EBLL case (if it is not already aware of it) within five days (either directly or through PHA).
- Notify HUD field office contact and LeadRegulations@hud.gov of EBLL case within five days (either directly or through PHA).
- Engage certified lead risk assessor to perform environmental investigation of child’s unit within 15 days.
- Notify residents of child’s unit of results of environmental investigation within 15 days directly, but not by posting in common area.
- If lead-based paint hazards are found in the child’s unit or in a common area servicing that unit in a multiunit property, engage a certified lead abatement professional or certified renovation firm to control the hazards, and a certified lead risk assessor to conduct risk assessments of other assisted dwelling units with a child under age 6 (“other covered units”).
- In a multi-unit property, notify residents that lead-based evaluation will be performed.
- If lead-based paint hazards are identified in other covered units, engage a certified lead abatement professional or certified renovation firm, and notify other residents of the results of the risk assessment and that lead hazard control work will be performed.
- Ensure adequate occupant protection, including temporary relocation for EBLL family and/or other families, when required, until their dwelling unit passes clearance.
- Complete lead hazard control in child’s unit, and in common area servicing that unit if lead-based paint hazards are identified, within 30 days of receiving environmental investigation report.
- Complete lead hazard control in other covered units and common areas servicing those units if lead-based paint hazards are identified, within 30 days of receiving environmental investigation report, if up to 20 other covered units, or 90 days, if over 20 other covered units.
- Ensure all dwelling units and common areas that received lead hazard control pass clearance as determined by a certified risk assessor.
- In multi-unit property, notify other residents that lead hazard control work was completed, and the results.
- Provide all documentation to the HUD field office contact in 10 business days.
- Disclose information about lead-based paint hazards and all new records and report to residents upon lease initiation or renewal (if not already disclosed).