Owner Falsely Certified Lead Paint Cleanup
Facts: In April 2007, a lead inspector from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development of the City of New York (HPD) visited a unit in a residential building on West 157th Street and found nine lead-paint violations. Under the city's lead-based paint law, the presence of peeling or deteriorated lead-based paint in a residential unit where a child lives is a hazard requiring immediate correction. After removing the hazard, the owner must certify that the unit is lead-safe. The inspector issued a citation requiring the owner to clean up these areas and to certify the corrections to HPD by the end of May 2007. In early May, the owner certified to HPD that its lead abatement contractor had corrected all nine violations. However, when HPD sent an inspector to verify the corrections in June, the inspector found that three of the nine violations remained uncorrected. HPD asked a court to fine the owner for falsely claiming it had corrected lead-based paint violations.
Decision: The Civil Court of the City of New York found the owner's efforts to comply with the lead-based paint law “woefully deficient” and fined the owner $9,000 for false certification.
Reasoning: The court put little stock in the testimony of the property manager who certified the corrections, because he did not have the expertise necessary to judge whether the lead abatement work had been completed satisfactorily. A supervisor of the lead abatement contractor, who was qualified to judge the work, did not personally visit the site before the reinspection by HPD and thus could not certify the work. Nonetheless, the building owner provided a certification to HPD that the unit was safe. In imposing the fine, the court noted that the lead-paint violations cited by HPD remained uncorrected for over a year after HPD's initial inspection. The court said that the city's lead-based paint law was intended to minimize hazards like these and reduce health risks to children, so the fines imposed against the owner for noncompliance were appropriate.
- Department of Housing Preservation and Development v. 157 Broadway Associates, June 2009
- New York City Housing Maintenance Code §27-2056.6
EDITOR'S NOTE: HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency, or your local housing or health agency may levy fines or take other action for noncompliance with lead-hazard abatement laws. This kind of action is not limited to agencies in New York. See the August 2007 Insider for examples of enforcement in other states.