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Cleveland’s Lead Safe Rental Law Step 3: Doing the Work While Protecting Tenants

The purpose of Cleveland’s lead-safe rental law is to protect the city’s youngest renters—those under the age of 6—from the dangerous and irreversible health consequences of lead poisoning. However, it’s important to note that the process of making a home lead-safe can actually increase exposure to tenants if precautions are not taken. This is because much of the work disturbs lead-based paint and can cause a large amount of contaminated dust to become airborne then settle throughout the home.


A full and detailed description of how to protect tenants can be found in Chapter 8 of the HUD Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead Based Paint in Housing (link is below). Also, as stated in a previous blog post, federal law requires anyone doing remediation - including property owners - to obtain a Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) certification. The class for this certification goes into great detail how to prepare worksites and control lead dust throughout hazard control work.


While I’m not going to go into extreme detail about protection measures—you can get that from HUD—I do want to discuss some of the considerations that need to be taken into account.


The first consideration is what are called the de minimis HUD standard. This refers to the amount of area of paint disturbance you’re permitted before being required to take protective measures. These standards are as follows:


· 20 square feet on exterior surfaces

· 2 square feet in any one interior room

· 10 percent of the total surface area on an interior or exterior type of component with a small surface area, such as window sills, baseboards, and trim.


While you may not have to take protective measures, you’ll still need to clean these areas of any dust created. I’ll talk about final cleanup in a later post.


If all the work you have to do to comply with Cleveland’s lead law falls under the de minimis standards, consider yourself incredibly lucky. You might be the only one in the city.


Most, if not all, landlords will have to take protective measures. The next consideration is whether or not to relocate tenants during hazard control work. The HUD Guidelines recommends temporary relocation of tenants if work is going to last over several days and generate considerable amounts of dust. Again, if you have the ability and money to relocate your tenants for a week, consider yourself (and your tenants) incredibly lucky. You might be the only one in the city.


Since relocating tenants is not a feasible option (except for a lucky landlord or two), every effort will need to be made to protect your tenants from lead dust while work is being completed. The easiest way is to have your tenants leave during the day while work is conducted. While they’re gone, all their furniture and belongings will still need to be wrapped in plastic (see Chapter 8 of the HUD Guidelines for details) and all exposed surfaces thoroughly cleaned prior to the tenants returning.


Unfortunately, COVID 19 has resulted in a lot of people having to work from home. Even after the pandemic is over, many people may still be working odd hours or homeschooling their children. If the tenants are going to be present during the work, you’ll have to work out a schedule where you can seal off individual rooms to prevent dust from spreading to areas where your tenants will be. (Again, see Chapter 8 of the HUD Guidelines for details on how to do this.) Also keep in mind that you’ll need to have access to a bathroom and a kitchen for your tenants. If you have a multi-family home, you may want to schedule work in the kitchens and baths of each unit at a different time so tenants can use one of their neighbor’s for the day.


Regardless of whether the tenant leaves daily, or you schedule to work around them, dust will need to be cleaned at the end of every workday to prevent from poisoning tenants.


While extra caution needs to be taken to protect tenants during work that generates lots of dust, don’t forget to protect yourself while you do the work. I talk about protecting children from lead poisoning, but adults can also get lead poisoning, especially if exposed in large quantities. Again, Chapter 8 of The HUD Guidelines explains how to do this in detail.

Remember to have the proper type of filter/mask, no eating, drinking, or smoking in the work area, wash your hands and face as needed, and put your work clothes in the laundry when you get home. You should also wear shoe covers at the worksite, so you don’t track any lead dust into your vehicle or home. Remember, if you track lead dust on your shoes into your home, and you have a toddler crawling around on the floor you just tracked lead onto, you risk harming your own child.


Before doing any lead hazard control work, thoroughly read Chapter 8 of the HUD Guidelines:

https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/HH/documents/10%20CH08_Resident%20Protection%20and%20Worksite%20Preparation_2012.09.12.pdf


For details on how to control each lead hazard, read Chapter 11 of the HUD Guidelines https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/LBPH-13.PDF. My previous posts explain some of the principles of this work and how to identify the hazards.


Once work is completed, you’ll need to do a thorough cleaning of the home with a HEPA vacuum prior to getting your Clearance Exam. I’ll discuss the cleanup process and the Exam in future posts.



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