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Assembly Dems Bill Package to Help Protect NJ Families from Lead Poisoning Clears Assembly Committee

Muoio, Gusciora, Schaer, Holley, Wimberly bill package would require lead inspection for certain rental and for-sale properties; establish statewide educational program

A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Reed Gusciora, Gary Schaer, Jamel Holley and Benjie Wimberly to help protect New Jersey families from lead paint contamination by imposing inspection requirements on rental and for-sale properties was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The sponsors noted that anxiety over lead contamination has increased after high levels of lead paint were found in the drinking water at several New Jersey schools last year. Additionally, 11 cities in New Jersey and two counties were reported to have a higher proportion of young children with more dangerous lead levels than Flint, Michigan – Irvington, East Orange, Trenton, Newark, Paterson, Plainfield, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Atlantic City, New Brunswick and Passaic, along with Salem and Cumberland counties.

“While recent focus has been on high levels of lead in drinking water, most lead contamination cases in New Jersey are the result of exposure to lead-based paint in old homes,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Young children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. By implementing these inspection requirements for rental and for-sale properties we can help protect children from lead exposure, which can severely affect their mental and physical development.”

“Many people think of their homes as safe havens, unaware of the danger that may be lurking on their walls,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Lead poisoning happens over a period of time and symptoms can be vague. That’s why it is critical that landlords check for lead contamination before a tenant moves in to ensure any hazards are found and dealt with before they become a risk.”

“Lead-paint was not banned from housing use until the late ’70’s, which makes the risk of lead poisoning, especially for young children living in old homes, very real,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Rather than have families with young children run the risk of being exposed, we can help prevent lead poisoning by requiring inspection of rental properties before a family can move in.”

“Children should not be poisoned by their own homes. Property owners who put their homes up for sale or rent have a responsibility to ensure they are safe to inhabit,” said Holley (D-Union). “By requiring lead testing, we can help prevent contaminated properties from going unchecked and unaware families from becoming unwilling victims.”

“Symptoms of lead poisoning are evasive and usually don’t appear until the damage is done. In large quantities, it can be fatal. Families should not have to pay such a heavy price for simply renting a home,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Inspecting these properties for lead hazards can help prevent families with young children from being exposed to such a detrimental health hazard.”

The first bill (A-3585), sponsored by Muoio, Gusciora, Schaer, Holley & Wimberly, would require municipalities to inspect every single-family and two-family rental dwelling located within the municipality for lead-based paint hazards at least once every five years. Single-family and two-family rental dwellings on which encapsulation has been performed to remediate lead-based paint hazards would have to be inspected at least once every two years.

Municipalities would charge a fee for the inspection at a rate proportional to the current “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law” fee schedule. Municipalities would also be required to impose an additional fee of $20 per unit inspected for deposit into the “Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.”

Under the bill, inspectors would have to report the number of inspections conducted annually and identify areas that have a high risk of lead exposure to the Department of Community Affairs.

The department would be required to compile the reports and make them available to the public on its website. Lastly, the department would have to submit an annual report to the Department of Health, the governor, and the Legislature detailing statewide lead inspection activity, as well as recommendations for more efficient lead hazard detection and abatement.

The second bill (A-3611), sponsored by Muoio, Holley & Wimberly, would require every property sale contract to include a provision requiring an inspection of the property for lead-based paint hazards, as a condition of the sale. The inspector would have to be certified by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). If no lead hazards are found, the property would be certified as lead-safe on a form prescribed by the DCA.

In addition, the bill would require municipalities to inspect every single-family, two-family, and multiple rental dwelling located within the municipality for lead-based paint hazards at tenant turnover. Municipalities would charge a fee for the inspection at a rate proportional to the current “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law” fee schedule. Moreover, the bill would require municipalities to impose an additional fee of $20 per unit inspected by a certified lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency for deposit into the “Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.”

The sponsors noted that dwelling units that pass visual tests for intact paint frequently contain invisible lead dust hazards detectable through dust wipe sampling. Therefore, under the bill, municipalities with a higher concentration of children with elevated blood lead levels would be required to inspect for lead-based paint hazards through dust wipe sampling.

Lastly, the bill would require the DCA, in consultation with the Department of Health, to establish a statewide, multifaceted, ongoing educational program designed to meet the needs of tenants, property owners, realtors and real estate agents, insurers and insurance agents, and local building officials about the nature of lead hazards, the importance of lead hazard control and mitigation, and the responsibilities set forth in this bill. The bill would also require the DCA to establish guidelines and a trainer’s manual for a lead hazard seminar for rental property owners.

The bills were advanced by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.