Jason and Natasha Mason are minor children who lived with their mother in a rental apartment belonging to James P. Morrisette and Joseph M. Griffiths. Natasha was examined and found to have high levels of lead in her blood.

As a result, the state health department inspected the apartment for lead paint and found significant lead contamination. The state ordered the landlord to abate the lead hazards, but he did not comply.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Later, both Jason and Natasha were tested and their blood contained dangerous amounts of lead. As a result, the Masons were provided with emergency housing so they could vacate their lead-ridden apartment.

Natasha and Jason, through their guardian and attorney, brought this lawsuit against the landlords, alleging they negligently maintained the rental apartment and failed to supply the information pamphlet required by the federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (RLPHRA).

The attorney for the children noted the statute provides for a noncompliance penalty of three times actual damages incurred. But the landlords replied the RLPHRA law and its regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only apply to purchasers and tenants, not to their minor children. The landlords asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

If you were the judge would you dismiss this lawsuit brought by the tenant’s children for alleged violation of RLPHRA?

The judge said yes!

The RLPHRA statute is very clear, the judge began. It says residential sellers and landlords must provide the purchaser or lessee with a lead hazard information pamphlet, disclose any known lead-based paint hazards in the housing, and allow the purchaser or tenant 10 days to conduct a risk assessment inspection for lead-based paint hazards, he continued.

“This disclosure provision does not require the seller or lessor to abate the lead-paint hazard nor disqualify a purchaser or lessee with young children from occupying a property that possibly contains lead-based paint hazards,” the judge explained.

The RLPHRA clearly limits recovery to a “purchaser or lessee” and does not include their minor children, the judge ruled. Therefore, Jason and Natasha Mason do not have standing under either the statute or its HUD regulations to seek damages for their lead poisoning, but they can pursue possible damages under state law, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2005 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Mason v. Morrisette, 403 Fed.3d 28.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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