Two nonprofit agencies and the president of Toledo City Council are pushing for a potentially controversial law that would require city property-owners to deal with lead paint in a home before it could be rented.
Lead exposure, even at low levels, can cause serious problems for young children and their developing brains and bodies.
Advocates for Basic Legal Equity gave the city a proposed law in November, which was reviewed Monday by officials of the Collins administration and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
“Toledo is second or third in the state, depending on the year, in the percentage of children who continue to be poisoned with lead,” said Robert Cole, a staff attorney for ABLE.
“This primarily occurs in low-income, African-American communities and often time, the primary source is rental properties,” Mr. Cole said. “Trying to address it after the poisoning occurred seems to be the wrong approach.”
Toledoans United for Social Action and ABLE asked the Bell administration last year to come up with an ordinance that would require landlords to test their properties for lead. Mr. Cole said the proposal sent to the city was based largely on a law passed in Rochester, N.Y.
It would require homeowners to have a lead-assessment performed, after which a home would be listed on a city registry, if it is deemed lead-safe. “Any lead discovered would need to be abated and remediated,” he said.
Homeowners could would face criminal misdemeanor charges for renting a house not on the registry.
“It seems to us the responsibility to rent safe-housing is the responsibility of the property-owner,” Mr. Cole said.
Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said she supports the idea offered by ABLE.
“It would be legitimate to have those properties that rent to young kids, to be certified to show they remediated the lead paint,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “There are studies that show kids who are exposed to lead have learning problems and other issues.”
Councilman Rob Ludeman, a Realtor who owns two rental properties built in the 1950s, said such a proposal “would just kill” the city’s rental market.
“It is extremely expensive to do lead remediation,” Mr. Ludeman said. “You might have property owners who say ‘screw it. I wont rent it, I’ll let it go into foreclosure, and let the city deal with it.’
“Unless there are grants to help pay for it, it’s a bad idea.”
Mr. Ludeman said more 50 percent of Toledo's single-family homes are rentals.
Lisa Ward, the city’s spokesman, said Mayor D. Michael Collins has not made a decision on the lead proposal.
“He is concerned that it would cause issues with the age of our housing stock, but he is also concerned with the issue of lead paint with our housing,” Ms. Ward said.
Even though lead-based paint was banned from residential use in 1978, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that about 24 million homes nationwide still have significant lead-based-paint hazards.
Toledo City Council is already considering a law from the Collins administration that would require homeowners who rent to multiple college students to register with the city and pay an annual fee. Under the proposed law, homeowners wishing to operate a “group rental” — which means up to three unrelated people could live in a single-family home — would have to register each home for $200 annually, pay $120 to obtain a certificate, and pay for annual inspections. The city would impose a $250 fine for failing to register.