Every day I get calls from Cleveland landlords asking about the new lead law. Typically, the caller is expecting to book the Clearance Examination right away. What most landlords don’t realize is that the Clearance Examination is the last step in the process. If you think you’re ready for the Clearance, go back and read all my previous posts about the steps to comply with the law. Only once you’ve identified and remediated the hazards, and properly cleaned the property, will you be ready for the Clearance. You should plan ahead and schedule your Clearance as soon after the final cleaning as possible, especially if the home is occupied.
The Clearance Examination has two parts: a visual examination followed by dust and soil sampling.
The Visual Examination: The clearance examiner will start by visually assessing the property. He or she may ask you questions about the hazards you identified and the work you did to remediate them. Using a form mandated by State of Ohio, the examiner will identify any remaining hazards and list the work you did. Most importantly, the examiner will look for any deteriorated paint, visible dust, or paint chips. If there are unaddressed hazards, deteriorated paint, or visible dust or paint chips, you will automatically fail the Clearance Examination. This is not at the discretion of the examiner; this is required by state law. The reason for this is to prevent wasting a landlord’s money on the lab costs of dust/soil sampling when it’s likely they will fail. When I do a Clearance and it fails the visual examination, I will document the reasons for failure and explain to the landlord what needs to be done to pass. I charge a trip fee (instead of the full price of the Clearance) and reschedule the exam for another day when remaining issues will be completed. I’m not sure what other risk assessors do or charge in case of a failure, but that’s my procedure. If you pass the visual examination—there are no remaining hazards, deteriorated paint, paint chips, or dust—then the dust and soil samples are collected.
Dust Sampling: Remember my previous post about properly cleaning the property with a combination of wet wash and HEPA vacuum? This is where that cleaning takes on great importance. Dust samples are collected from horizontal surfaces throughout the home. These come mostly from floors, stairs, window sills, and window troughs. About a dozen samples are taken per unit along with a few in common areas. The area tested is measured and the results are reported in micrograms per square foot. That’s right. Micrograms. An amount smaller than a grain of powdered sugar. So, again, make sure you clean thoroughly and with a HEPA vacuum. The EPA and HUD have set guidelines for the highest level of lead permitted per square foot of floors (40 micrograms), sills (250 micrograms), and troughs (400 micrograms). If the amount of lead per square foot is higher than these limits in any one sample, you fail the Clearance Examination.
Soil Sampling: This part is avoidable. Soil samples are only taken as part of a Clearance Examination if there is bare soil. Take my advice and eliminate any bare soil on the property so you don’t have to worry about another part of the Clearance that you can fail. You have several options: You can seed/sod, cover with 2-6” of mulch or gravel, or restrict access to soil with lattice around porches and decks. The HUD Guidelines even say you can plant “thorny bushes” to keep children from playing in the soil.
Once all the samples are taken, they are sent to a lab for analysis. As stated before, anything over EPA/HUD limits, and the Clearance will need to be retaken. The examiner will send you a report explaining where you failed and what needs to be done to pass. If all the samples are below the limits for lead, you pass! You’ll get a report that you can then submit to the City of Cleveland for lead-safe certification. The application and instructions for this can be found at the bottom of the page at