On September 26, 2019, Philadelphia City Council passed a new lead bill which amends the current law regarding lead in rental properties in Philadelphia and is effective October 1, 2020.  Since the bill was introduced, HAPCO and its partners in the real estate coalition spent eighteen months meeting with City Councilmembers and other stakeholders in an effort to amend the bill.  Although we did not get what we wanted and are not particularly happy with the outcome, Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown made sure to include HAPCO in the process and in the end, did agree to various compromises and concessions.

In summary, the new bill does the following:

  1. Expands the lead certification requirement to all pre-1978 rental properties except student housing.  No longer applicable are the prior law’s exclusions regarding: a)  dwelling units in which children aged six and under do not and will not reside; and b) dwelling units owned or subsidized by the Philadelphia Housing Authority or its subsidiaries, or privately owned but currently leased under the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
  2. Requires lead certifications on lease renewals as well as when the lease is originally entered into.  The prior law only applied when the lease was first entered into.
  3. Also ties the lead certification requirement to the issuance of rental licenses and renewals of rental licenses.  This concept is completely new in the bill.
  4. Expands the time period from 2 years to 4 years that a lead safe certification is valid.  This was one of Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown’s major concessions to landlords.
  5. Requires the tenant to cooperate and provide reasonable access to the rental unit for the landlord to have a certified lead inspector do an evaluation of the unit and to have any corrective action performed.
  6. Requires the Health Department to: a) publicize a list of all certifications received by the City and all violations issued based on the lead-safe ordinance; and b) test the home of a child who has a demonstrated elevated blood level.
  7. Requires submission of a lead safe certification or proof that the unit is lead-safe, lead-free or student housing before a landlord can proceed with an eviction.  Also creates a rebuttable presumption that a rental property was built before March 1978.
  8. Stiffens penalties for landlords who do not comply with Health Department orders to enter a property or obtain a lead safe certification after identification of a child with elevated levels.
  9. Creates a transition period for dwelling units with children aged six and under.  The new bill provides for a temporary exemption for dwelling units in which children aged six and under do not and will not reside during the lease term.  The City shall be divided into four (4) regions based on the highest percentage of screened children with elevated blood lead levels, as determined by the Department of Health.  Those in region one will lose the exemption as of October 1, 2020.  Those in region two will lose the exemption as of April 1, 2021.  Those in region three will lose the exemption as of October 1, 2021.  And those in region four will lose the exemption as of April 1, 2022.

A copy of the entire bill as passed can be found on the City of Philadelphia’s website.

-Article by Paul Jay Cohen, Esq., Hapco Attorney