Muoio & Spencer Introduce Bill to Help End Lead Paint Threat by Requiring Inspections During Home Sales & Rental Turnovers

Assemblywomen Elizabeth Maher Muoio and L. Grace Spencer have introduced legislation requiring lead paint inspections prior to home purchases and tenant turnovers in an effort to protect more children from the devastating and irreversible consequences of lead exposure.

Muoio and Spencer have been at the forefront of the fight to protect New Jersey children from lead exposure, particularly since reports surfaced that 11 municipalities in New Jersey had children with higher levels of lead contamination than children in Flint, Michigan. Among those municipalities are Trenton and Newark, which the lawmakers represent, respectively.

“This is one of the most crucial steps we can take to decisively put an end to the pervasive threat of lead in our home environments,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “By mandating inspections on all home sales or rental turnovers, we can systematically remove this threat once and for all.”

“While lead contamination in water is undoubtedly a concern, the persistent presence of lead paint in homes, particularly in poorer, urban areas is a far greater threat to our children,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “It’s time for New Jersey to start mandating inspections to put an end to this threat.”

Muoio and Spencer are also the sponsors of legislation working its way through the legislature right now that would require consistent, statewide testing for lead in New Jersey schools’ drinking water (A-3539) and another that would provide $20 million in funding for the City of Newark to make improvements to the water infrastructure (A-3583).

Their latest bill (A-3611) would require every contract of sale for real property to include a provision, as a condition of the sale, requiring a certified lead evaluation contractor to inspect any dwelling located on the property for lead-based paint hazards

The lead evaluation contractor must be certified to provide lead paint inspection services by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). If the contractor finds that no lead hazards exist in dwellings located on the property, then they would certify the property as lead-safe on a form prescribed by the DCA.

Additionally, 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 requires 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.”

If a municipality maintains a permanent local agency for the purpose of conducting inspections and enforcing laws, ordinances, and regulations concerning buildings and structures, that agency would inspect single-family, two-family, and multiple rental dwellings for lead-based paint hazards. If the municipality does not maintain such an agency, then the municipality would hire a lead evaluation contractor, certified to provide lead paint inspection services by the DCA.

Dwelling units that pass visual tests for intact paint frequently contain invisible lead dust hazards detectable through dust wipe sampling. Thus, in municipalities that have a higher concentration of children with elevated blood lead levels, the bill requires a lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency to inspect for lead-based paint hazards through dust wipe sampling. In municipalities with a lower concentration of children with elevated blood lead levels, the bill allows a lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency to inspect for lead-based paint hazards through visual assessment.

Rental properties that have been certified to be free of lead-based paint or lead-safe, properties that were constructed during or after 1978, and seasonal rental units would be exempt from the inspection and registration requirements. However, the bill eliminates the exemption for seasonal rentals from the cyclical inspections required under the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Act.”

Lastly, the bill requires 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 also requires the DCA to establish guidelines and a trainer’s manual for a lead hazard seminar for rental property owners.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.