Lead Paint - Get Prepared

Rochester has a Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Ordinance that was implemented in July 2006.  Property owners, residents, and community members may wonder what this law means for them. 

The following information will outline the details of the Ordinance, and the policies and procedures of this Ordinance as identified by the City of Rochester. It is intended to help citizens understand the law and how to get more information.

What is the Rochester lead law?

In December 2005, the City of Rochester adopted a local Lead Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Ordinance. The new law requires inspections for lead paint hazards as an extension of the city’s existing inspection processes (Certificate of Occupancy, complaints, referrals, etc.), which applies to rental units within the City limits. This law went into effect on July 1, 2006.

Why do we have a lead law?

Despite Rochester’s high lead risk, New York state lacks a policy framework for primary prevention to address lead hazards in housing before children are poisoned. The state health department implements a system of secondary prevention that requires lead testing for all children at ages one and two and provides for educational and environmental interventions for children after they are lead poisoned. Rochester joins the growing list of municipalities that define methods to control lead hazards before they result in poisoning.

In June 2004, the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning (CPLP) hosted a Community Lead Summit in which diverse community leaders pledged to end childhood lead poisoning by 2010. At the Summit, then-Mayor William A. Johnson pledged to enact comprehensive lead legislation before he left office in 2005. City Council reviewed various proposals submitted by the City Administration, CPLP and a Property Owners consortium, which resulted in the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Ordinance that was adopted in December 2005.

What properties are affected by the lead law?

Most pre-1978 rental properties in the City of Rochester that require a Certificate of Occupancy are covered by this law.

Pre-1978 residential rental units city-wide will be covered by the general provisions outlined in the lead ordinance. This means that deteriorated paint, both on the interior and exterior of the unit, will be required to have a protective covering and must be repaired using Lead Safe Work Practices.

The ordinance outlines in both Section §90-55 and in Section 3 of a Resolution the requirements of a designated high risk area, reflecting properties recorded with historic elevated blood lead level data and the recommendations of the Monroe County Department of Public Health. This area would be subject to additional inspection requirements and a separate citation, violation and clearance process.

Units in the high risk area as defined by Monroe County data that pass a visual inspection for deteriorated paint violation will require a dust wipe test as required by Section §90-55. The City will afford property owners an opportunity to clean their units and retest them only when less than 50% of the initial wipe samples are positive. If the units fail the initial dust wipe test by a greater margin or fail after the second test, a Notice and Order citing a dust lead hazard will be issued. The violation may only be removed after private clearance has been secured.

In addition, private clearance testing upon completion of interior related work (as outlined by Sections §90-56 and §90-57 of the ordinance) would apply city wide. All exterior related work within the City would require a visual clearance to receive a Certificate of Occupancy or to remove a violation.

There are exceptions for units that are already required to be safe from lead paint hazards under federal law. Additionally, the City will waive the Lead Safe Work Practice and private clearance requirement if a property owner has obtained a private risk assessment or lead-based paint inspection certifying the area cited contains no lead-based paint.

The City of Rochester recommends a thorough review of the lead ordinance, and staff are available for additional questions by calling (585) 428-6520. 

How will properties be inspected for lead?

Residential rental units built before 1978 requiring Certificates of Occupancy, in all areas of the City, will be covered by the general provisions outlined in Section §90-58 of the ordinance. This means that deteriorated paint, both on the interior and exterior of the unit, will be required to have protective covering and must be repaired using Lead Safe Work Practices.

Deteriorated paint will continue to be cited as it currently is during inspections conducted by inspection staff. Property owners now have certain obligations to their tenants and neighboring residents when work is conducted in that unit as defined in Section §90-58, lead-safe hazard reduction and control.

Protections are afforded to occupants of property within the City before, during and after work is conducted in any unit. Section §90-59 gives property owners the conditions by which a work site must be prepared, and provides occupants recourse to end a lease agreement if those conditions are not met.

What does it mean to use “Lead Safe Work Practices”?

Lead Safe Work Practices are federally mandated methods for conducting any type of repair in a unit that disturbs paint. Section §90-60 of the ordinance defines the mandated lead-safe work practice procedures and notifications to be conducted by the property owner or contractor.

Section §90-63 provides tenant protection against various retaliatory measures as a result of reporting conditions with potential lead hazards, provided the tenant did not cause the condition.

What is the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program?

EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

How can I prepare my property for a lead inspection?

In general, properties that are well-maintained should pass the inspection. If you plan on doing your own correction of deteriorated paint, you should take the Lead Safe Work Practices training course prior to beginning the work.

Make sure that there is no deteriorated paint or bare soil around the property. After you disturb any paint surface (sanding, scraping, etc.) make sure the area is properly cleaned. It is very important that you don’t disturb lead based paint without using Lead Safe Work Practices. That is especially true if there are children under the age of six, or anyone that is pregnant, in the apartment.

What will happen after my unit is inspected? 

There are several outcomes that may occur from the inspection of your unit. Inspection staff will conduct proactive follow up with property owners upon a citation for deteriorated paint if they are not contacted within seven days. Inspection staff will always work with property owners to get your unit to compliance. 

Does a property have to be lead free to pass an inspection?

Houses need to be lead-safe, but not free of lead. Rochester’s new law allows you to fix lead based paint hazards without having to remove all of the lead based paint. The law allows what are called “interim controls,” such as covering old leaded paint on siding, trim, or walls with lead free paint. These interim controls can be effective in keeping children safe, but special attention must be paid to friction and impact surfaces such as windows, doors, floors, and stairs. 

    Examples of lead safe work practices/cleaning interim controls

What will happen if a property in the “high risk” area fails the dust wipe test?

The high risk area as defined by Monroe County data that pass a visual inspection for deteriorated paint will require a dust wipe as required by Section §90-55. Property owners with units that fail the initial dust wipe test will be given the opportunity to clean their unit and be tested again before receiving a violation, as long as less than 50% of the wipe samples are positive.

Who can do the work on my property?

Anyone can repair violations identified by inspection staff, but they must be trained in Lead Safe Work Practices. Any landlord performing work on a rental property, home improvement contractor, property management firm, handymen or other compensated for renovation work that involves the replacement of windows or that disturbs more than 6 square feet of interior or 20 square feet of exterior paint or surface coating in pre-1978 residential housing or child occupied facilities must possess an EPA RRP Certification. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the persons performing this type of work have received proper training because anyone disturbing lead paint without proper methods can increase the dangers of lead poisoning. 

    Listing of list EPA Certified Contractors in the Rochester area

What if I own my own home?

Although Rochester’s new local lead paint poisoning prevention law will not affect owner occupants directly, a voluntary program is available to assist owners concerned about lead in their homes.

If you choose to address lead hazards, make sure to use Lead Safe Work Practices. 

Will the apartment I own/live in be inspected right away?

Not all apartments can be inspected at once. An apartment will be inspected when it is time to renew a Certificate of Occupancy, or if a tenant, neighborhood group, health representative or someone else concerned about a lead hazard asks for an inspection.

Does the Ordinance require me to pay for a risk assessment? 

Property owners are only required to repair areas of documented deteriorated paint and then pass a clearance inspection. Owners are welcome to obtain a risk assessment to help them fix the hazards and pass the clearance inspection, but this is your decision.

With existing education about standard treatments for lead hazards and lead safe work practices, the City of Rochester does not find it necessary to require a risk assessment, thereby allowing property owners greater flexibility in the process of making their homes lead safe.

That said, there would likely be benefits to many property owners to having a risk assessment in their units. A risk assessment may identify areas that do not contain lead-based paint, which would allow the property owner to provide documentation to NBD staff that area would not then be subject to lead-safe work practices. A risk assessment can also guide the property owner to choose cost effective and lead safe control techniques.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of assessors certified to conduct risk assessments.

Other Resources/For general information about lead paint