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  • Rob DeMalo

The Clock is Ticking: New Jersey Law Takes a Broad Brush Against Lead-Based Paint

New Regulations Expand and Turn the Focus on Rental Dwellings – Landlords Take Note

The dangers associated with exposure to lead (Pb) are not new. In fact, the known risks date back centuries with one study after the next pointing to countless health hazards. Whether ingested or inhaled, exposure can have physiological and behavioral effects on people at any age while children and pregnant women are often most at risk. One of the most common sources of such exposure is lead-based paint (LBP) in residential dwellings.

Once used for its long-standing durability, lead-based paint has been banned in New Jersey since 1972 and on the federal level since 1978 in residential properties. Fifty (50) years later, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has now taken further steps to protect residents – specifically aimed at single-family, two-family and multiple rental dwellings with few exceptions, including those constructed once the federal ban was enacted.

Effective July 2022 and pursuant to P.L.2021, c.182, all rental dwelling units “must be inspected for lead-based paint within two years of the effective date of the law, July 22, 2022, or upon tenant turnover, whichever is earlier.” But a one-time, initial inspection is only part of the new law. Ongoing inspections are required every three (3) years or each time there is tenant turnover.

Inspections are highly regulated and specific to the type of “rental dwelling” and must be conducted by a NJ certified lead evaluation contractor. The examinations can include visual inspections, dust wipe samplings or both – often determined by the specific municipality. Visually, inspectors are looking for the presence of deteriorated paint (i.e. peeling, chipping and/or cracking) or visible surface dust, debris or residue. In the case of dust wipe samplings, they are to be collected in accordance with HUD-approved guidelines. If no lead-based paint hazards are found, a “lead-safe certificate” is provided which is valid for two (2) years.

The new NJDCA regulation goes on to address instances in which lead-based paint risk are uncovered. This includes specific guidelines for the remediation using interim control methods and/or abatement. The former must include “paint stabilization, making surfaces smooth and cleanable and correcting dust-generative conditions.” Abatement is equally as specific and covers “paint removal, building component replacement and enclosure” of such lead-based paint hazards behind drywall or other materials. Post-remediation the dwelling must undergo an additional inspection either by the municipality or lead evaluation contractor.

These are all markedly positive steps in improving the lives of New Jersey residents but for landlords, time is of the essence. The two-year clock started ticking back in July and step one is to engage a certified New Jersey Lead Inspector/Risk Assessor.

Indoor Environmental Concepts (IEC) principal, Robert J. DeMalo, M.Sc., is licensed with such certification and the firm is available to provide this service.

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