Understanding NYC Local Law 31: Lead Paint Inspections for Multifamily Buildings
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More recently, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) updated its standard for lead-based paint in accordance with Local Law 1 and Local Law 66, passed by the New York City Council in 2004 and 2019, respectively. The push to tighten lead paint regulations is part of the LeadFreeNYC initiative, which was launched in 2019 under the De Blasio administration in a citywide effort to reduce childhood lead exposure.
The new standard took effect in December 2021 and lowers the threshold that defines paint or similar surface coating as “lead-based” from 1.0 milligrams to 0.5 milligrams of lead per square centimeter. The updated threshold is now the strictest in the nation.
HPD expects the changes to result in a 15 percent increase in positive lead tests and an increase in building violations. Multifamily property owners and investors now need to amend their testing, maintenance and tenant turnover protocols to maintain compliance and avoid potential fines.
“New York City continues to be at the national forefront in fighting lead poisoning. The new lead paint standard will help protect thousands more NYC children from lead exposure.”
—Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Former New York City Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
What requirements fall under current lead paint laws in New York City?Under current lead paint laws, owners of multifamily rental buildings constructed before 1960 must comply with the following regulations:
- Each year, determine if any children under the age of six live in an apartment
- Perform yearly on-site inspections—including unit dwellings and common areas—to detect and, if necessary, remediate any lead-based hazards
- Use safe work practices when disturbing more than two square feet of paint in buildings where a child resides
- During tenant turnover, ensure that any lead-based hazards in rental units are remediated using lead abatement and safe work practices and document this work using dust wipes performed by a neutral third-party
- Fulfill detailed record-keeping requirements and disclose findings to tenants
- Maintain proper licensure and training
How do the new laws impact current lead paint requirements?The new lead paint laws passed in 2020 and 2021 update previous requirements and add several more. Multifamily rental property owners should be aware of the following changes:
- The threshold for passing the XRF lead test was lowered to 0.5 mg/cm2 from 1.0 mg/cm2
- The threshold for dangerous lead levels in dust and blood was lowered
- The city must inspect apartments occupied by a pregnant woman
- For children under six years old, “resides” is now defined as 10 hours or more in a unit per week
- When a tenant leaves, all unit exemptions from prior XRF threshold (1.0 mg/cm2) are expunged
- All units in rental buildings constructed before 1960 must undergo XRF inspections before August 10, 2025
- All XRF tests and lead-based remediation work must be performed by an EPA-certified inspector or risk assessor
- All pre-1960 units in which a child resides must be XRF-inspected in one year
- Owners must maintain detailed records of test results and corresponding information for 10 years to comply with annual HPD audits
- Copies of “Annual Notice” distribution and collection
- Copies of completed annual investigations
- Copies of all documentation related to remediation work for lead-based paint hazard violations
- Copies of all documentation related to non-violation work that disturbed lead-based paint of unknown lead content in common areas or units where children under six reside
- Copies of all documentation related to any work performed during tenant turnover
What happens to lead exemptions?Similar to the previous law, owners of pre-1960s buildings can apply for two types of lead exemptions—lead free or lead safe. These exemptions allow property owners to bypass performing annual notice distribution, inspections and turnover requirements under the new laws. Exemptions already in place under the 1.0 mg/cm2 threshold remain in effect until the tenant vacates the rental unit or if new violations occur.
To qualify for a lead free exemption, an XRF test performed by an EPA-certified inspector must show no lead on any surface. If lead is found, owners must show that they have permanently eliminated the source of the lead through an EPA-certified abatement firm. Lead safe exemptions may be granted when sources of lead are encapsulated or contained using an approved abatement method like covering the area with sheetrock. Additionally, an ongoing monitoring plan must be put in place and an independent firm must perform a lead risk assessment every two years.
What can multifamily rental property owners do to ensure compliance with these new lead paint laws?While compliance with new laws may seem challenging, multifamily rental property owners who understand how these laws impact them can plan accordingly. Conducting annual inspections, performing XRF and dust wipe tests, maintaining detailed records and streamlining operations to quicken response and remediation times can help mitigate violations and potential fines.
Working with FirstService ResidentialAs the leading rental property management company in New York City, FirstService Residential possesses the expertise and structural support to help multifamily building owners navigate and comply with the web of local laws and regulations like those relating to lead-based paint.
More than 140 multifamily rental building owners, representing roughly 12,000 apartments and 30,000 tenants, trust our property managers and in-house compliance department to automatically track new laws and associated violations, maintain established relationships with industry professionals, mitigate disputes and reduce potential fines. With the support of our compliance department, our tailored management approach allows our property managers to devote more of their attention to managing and streamlining the day-to-day operations of the properties under their care.