The investment and rental property owner’s association of Philadelphia agrees with Public Citizens for Children and Youth, that Philly kids must be protected from lead poisoning. And HAPCO believes better landlord-tenant communication is the perfect starting point.
HAPCO is taking a proactive approach to safeguarding children, by working with Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown to improve Bill No. 180937, by making sure children age 6 and under living in at-risk properties are tested twice by a physician for lead exposure before they reach the age of 30 months.
The new lead Bill No. 180936 expands testing to include all rental properties, not just those in which children live. But HAPCO is also concerned about lead contamination in owner-occupied dwellings in Philadelphia, where many children live, but are not necessarily subject to any lead poisoning tests. It’s conceivable lead level testing in those residences could reveal an even bigger problem than what’s found in rental units where children may, or may not, live. Greensboro, NC and Toledo, OH have enacted ordinances requiring testing, inspection and repairs for all residential properties.
HAPCO’s more than 2500 members are educating tenants and the public that focusing laws on only rental property may mean more than $200 to $300 in tests per unit. This is in addition to the thousands of dollars rental property owners already spend, deep-cleaning units between tenants. It is a cost that leaves rental property owners little choice but to pass it along to the tenant in the form of higher rent. HAPCO is committed to letting their tenants know about these unintended consequences of new lead testing laws.
By advocating a holistic approach to lead testing, and not just focusing on rental units, HAPCO believes more children can be protected from lead poisoning.
Media reports about lead dust contamination from tear-down construction in Northeast Philadelphia underscore that lead dust can be anywhere.
And TV news stories about the recent closure of the Chew Athletic Field in Point Breeze for lead testing, illustrate that the problem is not limited to rental properties.
HAPCO Wants Tenants To Be Part Of The Solution
As part of our proactive approach, HAPCO is remaking its website to allow their tenants to get information about lead testing, as well discounts on cleaning supplies to protect their children. A Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study reveals that regular house cleaning can reduce lead levels in young children.
The investment and rental property owner’s association of Philadelphia also goes to great lengths to educate membership and ensure compliance with existing City lead remediation certification.
And HAPCO sees several potential ways to help fund lead paint testing and remediation.
Rather than compel rental property owners to bear 100 percent of the testing and cleanup costs, HAPCO has found precedent in other municipalities for a 50-cent-a-gallon surcharge on paint. Those monies have been used to help offset lead paint testing and remediation, in the form of grants issued to rental and owner-occupied families, where a child has tested positive for lead poisoning. The measure also kept landlords from having to raise rents.
The State of California has also prevailed in litigation against the Sherman Williams paint company to pay more than $400 million for the cleanup of contamination from lead paint that the company advertised as “safe” for years.
Similar litigation has been filed jointly in our region by Lehigh, Delaware and Montgomery counties. HAPCO sees the City of Philadelphia as a logical party to that suit, given Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s recent acknowledgement of lead contamination in City schools. The Governor has committed $100 million to that clean-up effort.
HAPCO Sees Better Enforcement Of Existing Laws As Key
The rental property owners of Philadelphia feel perhaps the simplest way to attain higher certification compliance is to fund enhanced enforcement of lead contamination laws already on the books. The proposed paint surcharge could help fund that effort as well.
HAPCO sees these solutions as part of our founding principle, to make sure there is affordable rental housing for all tenants.
Landlords And Tenants Need To Work Together
HAPCO feels absorbing another expense, like paying for additional testing, makes owning rental property too expensive. When combined with other recent City-mandated costs, it’s forcing landlords out of the low-to-moderate rental market. And that runs counter to HAPCO’s mission statement and founding principle, to make sure there is affordable rental housing for all tenants in Philadelphia.