Landlords in New York City have specific responsibilities for protecting tenants from lead paint hazards. Local Law 1 of 2004, also known as the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, outlines these requirements, which apply to multiple dwelling units that were built before 1960 (or between 1960 and 1978 if lead-based paint is known to be present) and where a child under the age of six lives or spends a significant amount of time (at least 10 hours per week). Since February 2021, Local Law 1 of 2004 also applies to tenant-occupied, one- and two-unit buildings.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) handles enforcement and offers online resources to assist building owners with compliance. This article provides an overview of landlords’ responsibilities.
Lead-Based Paint Hazards
Building owners and landlords should investigate common areas and individual units where children under six reside for potential lead paint hazards, such as:
- Peeling or damaged lead paint
- Dust created from peeling paint
- Lead paint on:
- Crumbling plaster or rotted wood
- Doors and windows that stick or rub against each other
- Windowsills and other surfaces that children have chewed on
Landlord Lead Paint Responsibilities
Property owners need to take the following actions to manage possible lead paint exposure.
Local Law 1 Requirements
Lead-based paint hazards are assumed to exist in dwellings units and common areas under the following circumstances:
- The building was constructed before January 1, 1960
- The building has tenant-occupied rental units
- A child under the age of six routinely spends a minimum of 10 hours per week in the unit
Unless a building owner has tested the painted surfaces to confirm otherwise, he or she must presume the presence of lead-based paint and follow the law’s instructions when doing any work that could disturb a lead-based paint surface.
Local Law 1 and its amendments require owners to:
- Perform proactive activities to confirm that paint is intact
- Conduct reactive activities to ensure proper remediation or abatement of peeling paint or deteriorated surfaces
- Requirements for such work depend on whether a child under age six lives in the unit, amount of paint that could be disturbed, whether the work is connected to a violation, or the type of work being performed.
- Use safe work practices for any construction activities that disturb painted surfaces, assuming that paint is lead-based (unless testing confirms otherwise)
These requirements also apply to dwelling units and common areas built between January 1, 1960, and January 1, 1978, if the owners know lead-based paint is present. Local Law 1 requirements do not apply to co-operative or condominium apartments occupied by the shareholder of record, but they do apply to co-op or condo units occupied by a tenant or subtenant.
In addition, owners must retain the records for these activities for at least 10 years and certify lead paint compliance as part of the annual property registration.
Unit Turnover Responsibilities
When a unit changes tenants, Local Law 1 requires landlords to take the following actions to ensure the unit’s safety for new tenants:
- Remediate all lead-based paint hazards and underlying defects, if applicable. At a minimum, this process involves wet scrape and paint.
- Arrange for removal of lead-based paint on:
- Chewable surfaces with evidence of teeth marks (Alternately, owners can encase the surface with a hard, puncture-resistant material.)
- Friction surfaces on doors and door frames
- Friction surfaces on all windows (Owners also have the option to install replacement window channels or sliders on friction surfaces.)
- Make all bare floors, windowsills and window wells in the unit smooth and cleanable
After completing all work according to safe work practices, identified below, owners must certify compliance with turnover requirements on the Lease/Commencement of Occupancy Notice for Prevention of Lead-Based Paint Hazards.
Lease Signing and Renewal
The completed Lease/Commencement of Occupancy Notice should be provided to new tenants with the lease (and at renewal), along with the Lead Paint Hazards in the Home pamphlet.
If requested by the tenant, owners should also provide documentation of turnover requirements. HPD has created a form to assist with recording turnover vacancy compliance.
Annual Lead Notice
Building owners must distribute an annual lead notice between January 1-15 to all tenants in pre-1960 multiple dwellings, or in dwellings built between 1960 and 1978, where the owner knows lead-based paint exists. (This notice may be combined with the annual window guard notice.)
- Owners must provide duplicate notices in at least English and Spanish so tenants can keep one copy and return one copy.
- In addition, property owners need to keep returned notices for their records.
- If tenants do not return the completed notice by February 15, owners must perform inspections between February 16 and March to determine whether a child under six lives or routinely spends more than 10 hours in the unit. Owners should document all attempts to contact the tenant to conduct such investigations.
- If owners do not receive the completed notice and cannot determine through inspection whether a child under six lives in the unit, they must notify DOHMH in writing. Such notifications should be mailed to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Healthy Homes, 125 Worth Street, Sixth Floor, CN58, New York, NY 10013.
- HPD offers Sample Forms for Delivery of Annual Notice Compliance to help owners document the above process.
5-Year Testing Requirement (Local Law 31 of 2020)
Local Law 31 of 2020, which went into effect on August 9, 2020, requires building owners to use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified inspector or risk assessor to test for lead-based paint in a dwelling unit of a building built before 1960. This requirement also applies to rental buildings constructed between 1960 and 1978 if the owner knows that lead-based paint is present.
Such inspections must take place within five years of the law’s effective date—by August 9, 2025—or within one year if a child under age six either lives, or routinely spends a minimum of 10 hours per week, in the dwelling unit.
Safe Work Practices
If repair work will disturb more than two square feet of lead-based paint—or paint of an unknown lead content—property owners must follow and document safe work practices for all repair work in a building common area or unit where a child under age six resides.
- Contractors must be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The level of certification increases if the work:
- Exceeds 100 square feet
- Requires removing two or more windows
- Responds to a violation
- Is specifically for abatement
- If the repair work does not meet these stricter requirements, contractors must have EPA certification for Renovation, Repair and Painting, or RRP. This certification requirement includes plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc., performing any work that would disturb paint.
- Upon completion of work, an EPA-certified Lead Inspector or Risk Assessor must take dust samples to confirm the area is free of lead-contaminated dust, according to the thresholds set by Local Law 1 and HPD.
- Owners must retain copies of the following:
- Firm and worker certificates for repair work and dust samples
- Results of dust samples
- Invoices or documentation
HPD offers the Sample Form for Safe Work Practices Compliance to assist owners with Local Law 1 documentation requirements.
Building owners can hire qualified companies to perform testing and determine whether lead-based paint is present in their buildings. If lead-based paint is present, owners can take proactive steps to reduce the associated liability and apply for exemption from certain provisions of the law.
For additional information on these requirements, visit the HPD website.