New State Law Requires Lead Paint Inspections for NJ Rentals

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At the June 21st Clifton City Council meeting, the Clifton City Manager Nick Villano and Clifton Health Department Director John Biegel presented to the Council the requirements of a new state law which will require regular inspections for lead-based paint in residential rental properties in all NJ municipalities.

The legislation was signed into law by Governor Murphy in July of 2021, as part of a package of bills with the intention to prevent NJ families and children from the hazards of lead exposure and poisoning.   Part of the law included the replacement of all lead residential service lines throughout the state, a project handled by Passaic Valley Water Commission for Clifton residents.  This second part, the inspection and remediation of lead-based paint in residential rental properties, will go into effect at tenant turnover beginning July 22, 2022.

Clifton will be required to perform lead inspections in all pre-1978 rental units at the time of tenant turnover, or every 3 years.  For Clifton, this will mean inspections of single-family, two-family and multiple dwellings for lead paint.

If lead is identified, the owner will be required to remediate through abatement or interim control measures.  Municipalities have 3 years to comply;  all initial inspections must be completed by July 22 of 2024.

According to city records, Clifton has over 4,000 2-family dwellings, 218 -family dwellings and 123 4-family dwellings that total over 9,300 units.

The state will require two different types of inspections, visual or dust wipe samplings, depending on the percentage of children 6 and under with a blood lead level greater than or equal to 5ug/dl (per the database maintained by the NJ Department of Health). 

If a municipality has 3% or less of children test under the required level, a visual assessment may be performed.  If greater than 3% of children test above accepted levels, a dust wipe sampling is required which includes at least six samples sent to a licensed lab.

Clifton's current score is 1.8%, putting it under 3% and allowing for only visual inspections.

According to the DOH, about 80 percent of lead poisoning cases are caused by lead-based paint found in homes that were built before 1978,  which disproportionately affects lower income families.   At the time of the law's release, NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli explained, "Lead is the most common environmental toxin for children and even low blood lead levels can cause permanent, irreversible neurologic damage. Children spent significantly more time at home during the pandemic, when elevated blood lead levels increased by 29%."

The Council needs to decide how the City will handle violations with owners who do not comply with inspection requirements.  From there, an ordinance needs to be passed and voted on by the Council. (An ordinance becomes municipal law, a resolution is an official action in effect for one year). An ordinance requires two readings, the first reading is to introduce with a public hearing date, the second reading is to vote. This ordinance will need to be introduced and voted on by the state's July 22nd deadline. 



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