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Lead-paint regulations primarily concern renters, but co-op owners can be affected when subletting or selling. Communication, testing, and document updates are vital for compliance and cost management.
AUTHORJosh Koppel, President, H.S.C. Management
New York City laws on lead-paint inspections and abatement really pertain to apartment renters, but apartment owners can sublet, and sometimes co-ops or condos own apartments that they rent out. You took over a co-op with a lead problem in an apartment that turned out to be a nightmare. What happened there?
There was an elderly lady living in the apartment, which was in shambles and had peeling paint everywhere, and a child who was visiting got lead-paint poisoning. The violation went to the co-op, the named owning entity, which had to cure the problem. It didn’t have insurance for lead paint, so the co-op had to pay for everything—testing, remediation and filings with the city—which took months.
What kind of communication should be made about the lead inspection requirement when an apartment is sublet or sold?
It should be in the sublet application, and shareholders should be given the option of conducting a lead detection test before the subletter moves in or having management handle it for a small fee. In addition to revising the documentation needed for subletting, co-ops should revise their sales applications as well. In the beginning, it was just rental units and sublets that had to be tested, but now even shareholders, when selling, need to test their apartments to comply with the law. And by 2025, every shareholder with a child under 6 has to test their apartment and file with the city, and managing agents have to keep files as well. For any other apartment that is not occupied by a shareholder or the immediate family, a lead-paint detection scan will have to be done. At the end of the day, the city is coming after the landlord, which is the co-op, not the shareholder. I should add that boards also need to test the common elements of their buildings to make sure that with people coming and going from apartments with violations, no peeling paint has been scraped or rubbed off or lead dust has escaped.
So updating documents seems to be key.This is just another level of expense for co-ops that takes away money they could be spending on other things. It’s severe, and it’s costly. And if lead is found in an apartment and the shareholder refuses to cure the violation, the co-op might be in a position where it has to do the abatement and then charge the cost to the shareholder. The bottom line is that boards need to update documents immediately and make sure everybody is complying with the law. I’m going to be resending and sending to new buildings what the law is and how we are going to comply with it.