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Massachusetts Lead Law

      Massachusetts enacted one of the America's first state laws addressing lead poisoning prevention back in in 1971.  The original state statute embodied prevention as it's primary principle which remains the premise of the current law.  

      Since 1971, Massachusetts rental property owners have been required to permanently control specified lead-based paint lead hazards in any residential unit where a child under the age of six may reside.  The 1971 law provided for enforcement of this duty by both a newly-created state Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health and by local boards of health.  In addition, the law exposed all of a landlord's assets to trial lawyers by providing that property owners would be "strictly liable" for damages resulting from failure to make a child's rental dwelling lead-safe.  Strict liability has been held to mean by state courts that owners are liable even if they did not know that lead-based paint hazards were present, or even that a child was living in the property.

      The law was revised in 1987 in three ways.  First, the amendments sought to improve the quality and safety of abatement work by requiring use of trained and licensed contractors, relocation of occupants during abatement, and daily and final clean-up in units undergoing abatement.  Second, the amendments were designed to substantially increase the number of units brought into compliance by providing financial assistance (a $1,000 state income tax credit and a grant/loan program) and mandating that prospective purchasers of residential premises receive notice about the lead law and have the opportunity to get an inspection.  Finally, the amendments embraced the principle of universal blood lead screening, mandating that physicians screen children and that health insurers cover screening costs.

      The law was further amended in 1993.  The cost of compliance was lowered by allowing owners to use interim controls for up to two years before permanently containing or abating lead-based paint hazards.  Other cost-reducing provisions allowed the use of encapsulation and eased safety precautions when children would not be endangered.  Property owners were provided with a larger $1,500/unit state income tax credit and a new state fund was set up to provide funds for lead hazard control.  Finally, owners who obtain certification from a licensed inspector that interim controls or abatement have been performed are no longer held strictly liable and insurers are required to provide coverage for any negligence claims (short of gross or willful negligence) that may be brought against such owners.

Overview of State Lead Laws

An overview of the laws and regulations that states have passed regarding lead hazard identification and control is available through the HUD web site at www.hud.gov/lea/lealinks.html.

Also see: Lead-Based Paint  | Latest on Lead | Lead Update | Lead Talk | Lead, Lawyers and Landlords | Look Out Landlords | New Regulations


National Center for Lead-Safe Housing

Search for additional stories on Lead-Based Paint in more than 130 newspapers.

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