More lead-paint laws coming for NYC landlords

Additional inspections and lead removal mandated, over owners’ objections

(Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)

The New York City Council passed a series of bills Thursday amending administrative codes to tackle persistent lead paint problems apartment buildings.

The vote comes just a day after the Adams administration said it has settled thousands of violations with four landlords in an effort to rid apartments of lead exposure to young people.

The measures passed Thursday would create a process for landlords to correct lead-based paint violations; require lead-based paint abatement in all units where a child under the age of six resides by mid-2027; and require inspections for some buildings that may pose a risk of lead exposure to children.

The landlord group Community Housing Improvement Program said the legislation will primarily affect more than 10,000 rent-stabilized buildings constructed before 1960. It warned of unintended consequences.

“Removing lead-paint hazards from buildings is vitally important to the long-term sustainability of affordable housing in New York City,” said Jay Martin, executive director of CHIP. “How we go about accomplishing this goal matters. Increasing mandates and fines without fully considering the impact of these actions can cause more harm than good.”

The Rent Stabilization Association, which also represents rent-stabilized building owners, is especially concerned with Intro 6, which mandates abatements while tenants are still occupying a unit.

“It’s not really done anyplace because it actually can create more hazards than remedies,” the group’s Frank Ricci said. “There is a kind of opt-out: If a tenant refuses to leave the apartment, then the owner is off the hook.”

That bill and one other passed 35 to 7. The other three passed unanimously.

The bills also require property owners to produce records for the previous year, including X-ray fluorescence analysis after Aug. 1, 2025, whenever a violation for lead-based paint hazards is issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

One Council backer threw shade at the real estate industry as she cheered the chamber’s history of passing laws to curb lead exposure.

“Each of these attempts have been met with steep resistance, but our city has been bullish in the assertion and the goal that lead poisoning in children is entirely preventable,” Bronx Council member Pierina Sanchez said as the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings approved the bills 7-0. “Yet, despite this leadership, for decades, our kids in the city have remained poisoned.”

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Lead poisoning, which impairs brain development in children, has been significantly reduced over the years by a number of steps, notably the removal of lead from gasoline. While the sale of lead-based paint was banned in 1960, the toxin has proved difficult to remediate in older buildings around the city.

Martin said the bill sponsors made some changes requested by his group but ignored others, and pointed out that the Adams administration also raised red flags.

“We still feel this bill was rushed through and we fear that many of the negative consequences that were laid out by the [HPD] will come true, including the serious possibility that the health of tenants will be put at risk,” Martin added.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ann Korchak, president of The Small Property Owners of New York, says the city continues to move the goalposts on property owners, some of whom are still playing catch-up with lead laws passed early in the pandemic.

“The lead laws that have already been passed are working,” Korchak said. “They didn’t even finish the implementation of the last lead law, which is 2025, that every unit has to be tested.”

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The 2020 lead laws mandate that pre-1960 apartments where a child resides be checked for lead hazards within five years by an inspector certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, and that home improvement contractors show they follow lead-related safety practices. Smaller landlords and vacation-rental owners also must meet guidelines.

Lead abatement in occupied apartments are difficult and costly, Korchak added, and pose an added health risk of lead falling onto clothing and furniture.

“To throw these new regulations in while we haven’t fully implemented the last major ones make it very hard for the operator,” she said.

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