Maryland and federal laws about lead paint are designed to reduce childhood lead poisoning. This article describes the rights of tenants and prospective buyers of residential housing built before 1978. Information for landlords and owners can be found in another article.
Topics on this page
- Lead paint risks
- Lead testing
- Which homes are covered by Maryland’s lead paint law?
- Information for renters
- Buying an old home
It only takes an amount of lead dust equal to three grains of sugar a day to poison a child over time. Lead often comes in the form of a very fine, sticky dust. Children are likely to swallow lead dust when it gets on their hands and then they put their hands or objects in their mouths; for instance, when a child sucks his or her thumb or chews on a toy.
A person can be exposed in various ways, including:
- breathing or swallowing lead dust;
- eating chipping lead paint;
- drinking water from pipes with lead soldering; or
- eating food grown in contaminated soil.
If you live in or own an older house, defective lead-based paint may harm children and adults. Individuals most at risk are pregnant women and young children under the age of six who live in houses with lead hazards. If your child is poisoned by lead, he or she may fight a life-long battle with:
- Attention Deficit Disorders
- Learning Disabilities
- Violent Behavior
- Mental Retardation
- Reduction of Motor Control and Balance
- Hearing Loss
Pregnant women and their unborn fetuses are also at risk if exposed to lead hazards. Elevated blood lead levels in pregnant women can lead to an increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, or low birth weight babies. For more information see the Maryland Department of the Environment's page on What Every Parent Should Know About Lead.
All children living in “at risk areas” for lead poisoning or receiving medical assistance must be blood tested for lead poisoning at 12 and 24 months. Children between 24 months and six years old, living in “at risk areas,” must be blood lead tested if the child has not previously received a blood test for lead poisoning or documentation concerning blood test for lead poisoning cannot be verified. The Maryland Department of Health has an interactive website for viewing at risk areas. Contact your health care provider to find out how and where you can have your child tested.
Only pre-1978 residential rental properties/units (“Affected Properties”) are regulated by Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act. Owner-occupied properties/units are not regulated. Affected Properties that are Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) certified lead-free or limited lead-free are exempt from Maryland’s lead paint law. Affected Properties owned or operated by federal, State, or local government or by a public, quasi-public, or municipal corporation are also exempt, provided the Affected Properties are subject to standards at least as strict as the standards established by Maryland’s lead paint law.
Lead-based paint for residential use was banned after 1978. If you rent an older property look for chipping, peeling, or flaking paint on the interior and exterior walls. Also check, window sills, wells and frames, door frames, ceilings, wooden trim, stairwells, floors and porches. Lead dust is often created by opening and closing old windows and doors.
If you rent an Affected Property, ask the landlord for a copy of a current, passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate. You can also check MDE’s website, or call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 410-537-3825.
If you rent an Affected Property and are concerned about your child being exposed to lead-based paint hazards, ask your doctor to administer a blood test for lead poisoning to your child.
If you rent an Affected Property and the Affected Property does not have a current passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate, you can file a Petition for Rent Escrow in the District Court in the county where you. More information about rent escrow.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-211.1
Landlords are required by law to perform “risk reduction” on Affected Properties. "Risk reduction" is a series of treatments by certified contractors specially trained to perform specific lead-safe work practices to prevent exposure to lead hazards to you and your family.
Learn more about the duties of landlords. More information is also available on MDE's website.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Environment § 6-845
When buying a home built before 1978, state and federal laws requires owners to make certain disclosures. Under Maryland law, the owner is required to disclose whether any lead paint related remediation needs to be done, and whether the owner will perform the remediation before the sale.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Environment § 6-824
Federal law also requires sellers to make certain disclosures. These federal disclosures apply to lead paint as well as other lead hazards such as lead pipes.
- Sellers must disclose the presence of known lead-based hazards in the housing (to see what the disclosure looks like, visit the EPA's website);
- Sellers must provide purchasers and lessees with any available records or reports pertaining to the presence of lead-based hazards;
- Sellers and landlords must provide purchasers and lessees with the EPA pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”;
- Sellers must provide purchasers with a 10-day opportunity to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based hazards before the purchaser is obligated under any purchase contract;
- Sales contracts must include certain disclosure and acknowledgment language; and
- Agents must ensure compliance with the requirements.
For more information about required disclosures, see the EPA's website.