Is your apartment lead free? According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, more than 70% housing in the state “has potential lead hazards that can poison children.”
So what if that includes your home?
Here’s a tenant-focused guide to help you sort things out and stay safe.
How do I know if my house contains lead?
If it was built before 1978, chances are it was. The most common sources of exposure in the state are dust, soil, or paint.
First, check the age of your building online through your city’s tax assessors database, where you can search for your home by your civic address.
If it’s before 1978, don’t panic. Attempting to remove all lead from a property can be expensive and risky, especially if the paint is scraped in a way that does not contain the resulting dust. But that doesn’t mean tenants have to live with risk. In Rhode Island, rental properties must be lead-free. This means there is no peeling paint and the property is free from dangerous amounts of lead dust.
Tenants should know the lead status of their apartments because landlords of pre-1978 homes are required by law to inform tenants of any potential lead-related hazards. before they rent.
A warning and disclosure document should be included in the lease along with the state’s version of an Environmental Protection Agency brochure on protecting your family from lead. A digital copy is available here.
I’m still not sure…
Not sure if you have the required documents on hand? Consult RIDOH’s online database of lead and inspection certificates by clicking hereand go to the button indicating the certificates of ownership.
This tool allows users to search by municipality, street address, certificate type and date of issue. So you can be as specific or as general as you prefer.
At first, your search results may seem confusing, so refer to this RIDOH Cheat Sheet to translate your findings.
As the guide states, certain “units and properties may be exempt from lead certificate requirements, but may still be required to be lead-free and may still obtain a lead certificate if the landlord chooses to do so.”
Be aware that certificates are usually issued for units, not for the entire property. So you can search for your apartment number in your search results.
Lead certificates in Rhode Island, which typically expire after two years, can be either a lead certificate of compliance or a conditional lead safety certificate, although there are many variations, so check the guide for more details.
To obtain these certificates, two types of inspections are available: a Lead Risk Mitigation Inspection (formerly known as an Independent Licensing Inspection) and a Full Environmental Lead Inspection. The former focuses on paint and dust while the latter is broader including soil and water.
I don’t think my landlord has a certificate. What should I do next?
Tyler Romero, senior program manager in Central Falls, which has higher exposure rates than most other municipalities in the state, said tenants have several options.
“I would like, if possible, to call your local code enforcement department [office]see if they’ll be able to accept a complaint from a tenant and ultimately you can always ask your landlord,” Romero said.
Communicating with your landlord should be your first stop.
According to RI Housing, which offers rental resources among other services, tenants have the right to ask their owner to remedy the hazards and schedule an inspection.
“It’s, even at the best of times, not necessarily a fun conversation to have,” said Laura Biron, executive director of the Childhood Lead Action Project, or CLAP, a nonprofit that works to end childbirth. exposure of children to lead in the State. “But it’s really important, and it’s the one that can turn well.”
While the landlord’s primary interest should be keeping tenants safe and following the law, Biron noted that there are incentives tenants can mention, such as tax credits for land remediation. lead.
Even better, your landlord may qualify for a free inspection through RIHousing’s LeadSafe Homes program, which also provides corrective action. Municipally administered programs are also available in Providence and Woonsocket.
If your landlord doesn’t take action, contact your local code enforcement office, which is responsible for ensuring landlords meet minimum housing standards. A hearing from a city inspector should eventually prompt your landlord to take action.
Can I test lead myself?
You can, with a home test kit, but you probably shouldn’t. Hiring a certified chief inspector is the best way to find out if your unit is safe. They will perform a deeper and more advanced test than a basic kit allows. This may include taking x-rays of walls and collecting samples of surfaces with dust wipes, which are then sent for analysis.
And my water?
Municipalities may have maps available to show known or suspected lead pipe locations. Providence Water has a online map on this link, which can be consulted via the postal address. Woonsocket has a map and a list of lead lines here.
If you find that your home may be connected to the main water line with lead pipes, Biron recommends using a water filter. Search for labeled filters NSF/ANSI 53 or more.
Who can I call for more help?
Finally, if your landlord resists taking steps to keep tenants safe, you may be eligible for free legal assistance from Rhode Island Legal Services by dialing (401) 274-2652, or center for justice by dialing (401) 491-1101.
Remember that just asking for advice does not mean you have to take legal action.