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Lead-Safe Rental Requirements Approved By Cleveland City Council

Cleveland City Council passed new lead paint requirements for landlords Wednesday, giving Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration 18 months to develop a citywide program to reduce childhood lead poisoning.

The law requires owners of rentals built before 1978 to have their properties inspected for lead hazards every two years. Cleveland’s Building and Housing Department will start enforcing the new rules in March 2021 and require all rentals to be certified as lead safe by 2023. The legislation also doubles the rental registration fee, raising it from $35 to $70.

"Too many children are being exposed to lead in this community, and if you ain’t going to pay for it on the front end, then we’re going to pay for it on the back end," said Councilman Blaine Griffin, the chair of the health committee. "So it’s important that we move this through."

The law largely follows the recommendations of the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition, a group of city officials, nonprofits, philanthropic groups and realtors formed in January this year.

The coalition plans to continue its work by raising money to help property owners afford fixing lead hazards. The group is also planning a lead-safe resource center to help residents learn more about lead paint.

"Equally critical is the public education campaign, so the entire community can know what they can do to prevent lead poisoning to increase the viability, stability accessibility and health value of our homes," Cleveland Public Health Director Merle Gordon said.

Councilmen Michael Polensek and Tony Brancatelli pressed Jackson administration officials on how they will administer the program, asking about staffing and how much landlords will have to pay for inspections.  

"We're designing some incredible legislation here, but we haven't quite figured out how to land this yet," Brancatelli said.

Building and Housing Director Ayonna Blue Donald said she will need to hire more employees, but is still developing a staffing plan. She said lead clearance examinations typically cost around $250, and more intensive risk assessments $400 to $500.

The city will not perform the lead-safe certification examinations itself. Instead, landlords will have to hire private inspectors.

Council also gave the city the OK on Wednesday to seek a $9.1 million federal HUD grant to perform lead-safe work on about 500 homes in four census tracts.

A separate activist group, Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH),  gathered signatures to push for lead-safe law by ballot initiative. City council’s clerk rejected those petitions, saying they lacked legally required language. CLASH has gone to court over that refusal, and began collecting signatures for a second effort.

But on Wednesday, the group announced it would abandon that petition drive.

An earlier version of this story said the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition was formed in February. In was announced in late January.

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