If you’re a rental property owner in Rhode Island, it’s crucial to stay informed about recent updates to the state’s lead mitigation laws. Lead poisoning prevention is paramount, and these laws aim to protect both tenants and property owners. While the laws aren’t new, there’s a renewed effort at requiring property owners to comply with the laws with significant enforcement measures in place. If you’re a Landlord make sure that you read this to the very end–you cannot afford to ignore this information!
I’ve gathered information to help you to navigate what you need to do in order to ensure your property is in compliance with the state laws. Here’s a comprehensive guide that combines information about the recent legal updates with the process and requirements for obtaining a Certificate of Lead Conformance (CLC):
Understanding the Lead Poisoning Challenge:
- Rhode Island faces a significant challenge with lead exposure, primarily due to lead paint in older housing.
- An astonishing 80% of Rhode Island’s housing stock was built before 1978, making it susceptible to lead hazards.
- Core Cities in Rhode Island, with child poverty rates exceeding 25%, have the oldest housing stock, posing a higher risk of lead exposure.
- In these Core Cities, a staggering 94% of residences were built before 1978, with 61% constructed prior to 1940.
- According to the RI Department of Health, 19% of Providence children are lead poisoned by the time they reach elementary school. Similar rates exist in other cities.
Recent Updates to Rhode Island’s Lead Mitigation Laws:
- Attorney General Peter F. Neronha initiated a package of lead poisoning prevention and housing bills that were passed during the summer 2023 session.
- Sponsored by various legislators, these bills aim to ensure landlords comply with lead-safety laws.
- The bills represent significant tenant protections and healthy housing legislation.
Process for Obtaining a Certificate of Lead Conformance:
Regular Lead Hazard Mitigation Inspection:
- Landlords are required to hire a licensed Lead Inspector.
- Inspections must occur every two years or at tenant turnover, whichever period is sooner.
Coverage for All Rental Units:
- Previously, the unit that was owner-occupied was exempt from inspections, but as of January 1, 2024 all rental units will be required to have a CLC.
- The CLC is issued upon a unit passing a visual inspection and dust sampling tests, performed by a licensed inspector.
- If you would like to view a pre-inspection checklist send me an email. The checklist outlines what the inspector will be visually checking and will serve as a guide. There can’t be any peeling paint (interior or exterior), old windows (wooden) will automatically NOT pass, painted stairs must have treads, etc. This checklist will help you to get prepared for the test.
Visual Inspection and Dust Samples:
- If the visual inspection passes, dust samples are taken.
- Property owners must ensure thorough cleaning prior to the dust samples—yes, this can be tricky with tenants but there’s no way around this part of the testing.
- Dust sample results usually take 7-10 days. If the dust sample does not pass the inspector will have to obtain an additional sample, rinse and repeat until the unit passes.
- If everything passes, property owners receive the CLC, valid for 2 years or until a tenant vacates.
Tenant Staying in the Unit:
- If a tenant remains, the landlord can send an affidavit letter but must complete a 3 hour online lead course.
- However, the CLC becomes invalid when the tenant leaves.
Common Areas Must Pass:
- Common areas must pass inspection along with individual units. This includes the basement if utilized by tenants.
- The cost for obtaining the CLC is $150 per unit.
- Common areas accessible to tenants require an additional $10 fee per area–this may include the basement if you provide storage and/or laundry.
- If children are present, additional samples are required in the child’s bedroom so the testing costs $170.
Lead Safe vs. Lead Free:
- The CLC signifies “Lead Safe” status. Use this form as a “cheat sheet” to understand the different types of designations–note that it’s not been updated since 2021, however the info appears to be valid.
- Achieving “Lead Free” status requires a comprehensive test ensuring no lead is present anywhere in the house. If you obtain a “Lead Free” certificate it seems that you no longer have to obtain a certificate each year.
Funding for Rhode Island Property Owners:
- Rhode Island property owners residing in the state may be eligible for up to $5,000 in funding but only for “Lead Free” status.
- Funding prioritizes income and requires a Comprehensive Lead Test for removal–very difficult to obtain unless the property has been entirely gutted.
- f you would like to view an outline of the rebates and tax credits send me an email.
- Property owners can apply for a $1,500 tax credit with a CLC.
- Qualification involves spending $1,500 or more on lead-related expenses and being Rhode Island residents.
- If you would like to view an outline of the rebates and tax credits send me an email.
- Home buyers may want to consider a Limited lead inspection as part of their home inspection process. The cost of this inspection is based on square footage and use an XRF machine to identify lead presence on all surfaces.
- Property owners may find it difficult to evict tenants if they do not have a valid CLC–beginning Oct 2024 the clerks will require a copy of the CLC in order to accept the file. If the Landlord does not have a valid CLC the file will not be accepted–no court case, no eviction.
- CLC’s are now published on a public database. Landlords are required to provide a valid copy of the conformance certificate to tenants. Tenants can look up the property on the compliance database. If the property is not in compliance, the tenant can file a complaint and, with a court order, pay their rent into a District Court appointed account rather than to the Landlord. The state will hold the funds until the property is in compliance.
Insurance & Lender Requirements:
- Insurance companies may start requiring property owners to have a CLC–this does not appear to be the case currently.
- Some lenders may require a certificate of conformance prior to under-writing a loan for the purchase of multi-family properties.
Incorporating Lead Safe/Compliance Certificates into Eviction Proceedings: What Landlords Need to Know
Starting in October 2024, landlords in Rhode Island face a crucial change in the eviction process. To better protect tenants’ health and well-being, a Lead Safe/Compliance Certificate must be included as an attachment to an Eviction Complaint.
Here’s what landlords should understand about this new regulation:
- Certificate Requirement: Landlords must possess a Lead Safe/Compliance Certificate before initiating an eviction case. Without this certificate, the clerk will not accept the case. It’s a vital prerequisite for landlords.
- Challenges for Non-Compliant Landlords: Landlords who don’t have CLC before tenant-landlord relationships deteriorate may face significant challenges. Once tenants become aware of this requirement, they may withhold rent, creating financial difficulties for landlords.
- Tenant Cooperation: Obtaining CLC’s involves cooperation between landlords and tenants. Landlords will need access to the property for inspection, but tenants may be hesitant to allow inspectors in.
- Lead Remediation Hurdles: If lead is found during the inspection, remediation will be necessary. However, tenants may resist remediation efforts and continue to reside in the property without paying rent.
- Legal Action: To compel tenants to cooperate with contractors for lead remediation, landlords may need to file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). This legal process can be time-consuming and may take months to resolve.
This change aims to prioritize the safety of tenants and create lead-safe environments in rental properties. It’s essential for landlords to be proactive, obtain CLC’s, and maintain open communication with tenants to avoid potential eviction challenges. Ensuring lead-safe housing is a shared responsibility that benefits everyone involved.
Want a property inspection checklist or a quick overview? Send me an email and I will provide you with helpful information! Please feel free to reach out to me–I’m here to support you and can help you!