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Advocates Press Cleveland City Council For Lead Paint Rental Registry

CLASH is asking Cleveland City Council to ensure rental properties are lead safe by 2021. [Kim Britten / Shutterstock]
A sign saying danger contains lead.

A coalition of community groups plans to put forward a ballot initiative to require all rental property in Cleveland be certified lead safe by 2021.

Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH) said in a press release it plans to put the proposal to voters in November if Cleveland City Council does not pass the ordinance itself.

“On average four children are testing positive for elevated blood lead levels every day,” CLASH representative Yvonka Hall said in the release. “CLASH will move forward with the ballot initiative process, but we can save days and save lives if City Council takes up the proposed bill themselves.”

Under the proposal, landlords would see a new question on their rental registration application, requiring them to document if the property is lead safe, lead free, exempt, or not lead safe. To be certified lead safe, the property must pass a lead risk assessment or lead clearance test. It does not mean the property must be lead free. Failing properties must be remediated before they can be rented.

The goal is to address lead contaminated homes before children are poisoned.

The proposal allows exemptions for owner-occupied rentals and those built after 1978 when the federal government banned lead-based paint.

According to CLASH, the assessment typically costs between $300 to $500. The proposed ordinance would create a Lead Assessment and Remediation Fund to help defray the cost to landlords.

Landlords whose properties don’t meet the lead safe certification requirement by March 1, 2021, could be fined up to $500 every three months for one year and up to $1000 every three months afterward.

Child care facilities would also be required to meet lead safe standards by November 1, 2021.

The ordinance also requires a publicly accessible database to determine a property’s lead status, and a Lead Advisory Board to implement the bill.

CLASH is made up of groups including the Cleveland Lead Safe Network, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, and Cleveland End Poverty Now Coalition.

Mayor Frank Jackson last month announced the Lead Safe Cleveland initiative that brings government, community and nonprofit foundations together to address lead in Cleveland.

On Monday, Cleveland City Council will take up a resolution supporting that work. According to the legislation, the city’s lead safe initiative aims to reduce poisoning by 90 percent over 10 years.

The city and council have not yet replied to requests for comment on the CLASH proposal. Similar legislation was first introduced in 2017 by then-councilman Jeff Johnson who is a member of CLASH. 

A study by Case Western Reserve University found 41 percent of Ohio children with elevated lead levels lived in Cuyahoga County.

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.