Lancaster to require lead certification for rental properties with young children

LANCASTER, Pa. - City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an ordinance that would require certification for rental properties with young children.

The ordinance calls for rental properties built before 1978, the year the federal government banned consumer use of lead-based paint, to be certified as lead-safe or lead-free in order to rent to families with children 6 years of age or younger.

City officials say it is a step in the right direction to protect children, who are highly susceptible to lead poisoning.

"As that paint deteriorates, it releases lead, and lead is then picked up by children on their hands, using toys, chewing on wood surfaces, and that's really what causes the lead poisoning," said Randy Patterson, the city's director of economic development and neighborhood revitalization.

The penalties for non-compliance include fines and loss of rental license. The testing certification is estimated at around $250, which can be paid for by the city, while potential remediation costs can vary.

"You go through a clearance process of doing some dust wipes, [and] they're sent away to a lab," Patterson said of the certification process. "If they come back with lead, then we know that the unit can't clear, and you have to do some additional remediation."

Council members were fully on-board with the proposal, with one calling it the "easiest controversial vote" he had seen.

While some members of the public questioned whether the ordinance changes went far enough during the public hearing, most people FOX43 spoke with were supportive of the proposal.

"Most likely they'll have to replace most of the windows, which is fine," said Michael Tallarico, a Lancaster resident and former landlord in the city. "It's a plus because it helps the properties, it helps the landlord, and it helps the tenants. It's a plus the whole way around."

"It's really important to make sure that families are protected, that people aren't exposed to anything toxic that would hurt families and people in general," said Nelly Torres, a city resident.

The city said it wants to take a proactive approach to limit lead exposure.

"If a child's already poisoned, the damage is already done, so this is really an effort to do prevention work up front," said Patterson.

The ordinance takes effect in 20 days, meaning enforcement could begin sometime next month.