A Minneapolis landlord accused of failing to inform tenants that their homes might contain potentially dangerous levels of lead has settled an investigation by three federal agencies, agreeing to clean up any hazards and pay a civil fine, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday.
Steven J. Meldahl, the owner of SJM Properties, has agreed to disclose any known lead-based-paint hazards to his tenants and to test for and clean up any hazards in his 34 Minneapolis rental homes, according to the settlement, which also involved the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.
Meldahl will pay a civil fine of $5,000 for violating the federal disclosure law and agrees to comply with the Lead Disclosure Rule in the future, HUD reported. The rule requires home sellers and landlords of housing built before 1978 to provide each purchaser or tenant with a lead information packet, any available information and/or reports concerning lead-based paint or lead-based-paint hazards in the property, and a Lead Warning Statement to be signed by the parties.
“Families need to know whether their homes can potentially harm their children,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi in a statement. “The law is clear — landlords and home sellers have an obligation to inform their tenants or home buyers about possible lead-based paint hazards.”
Lead exposure causes reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, poorer hearing, and a host of other health problems in young children, HUD said.
HUD began its investigation in 2001 to verify whether landlords in the Minneapolis area were in compliance with the Department’s Lead Disclosure Rule. Following HUD’s inspection, EPA issued an Administrative Subpoena to SJM Properties for copies of all lease agreements. HUD examined the lease agreements from all residential properties owned by SJM Properties and uncovered violations of the Lead Disclosure Rule. As part of the review, HUD and EPA discovered that Meldahl had purchased non-compliant lead disclosure forms from an outside entity. Acceptable lead disclosure forms can be found at at www.hud.gov/offices/lead/disclosurerule and www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadbase.htm.
“Childhood lead poisoning is entirely preventable,” said EPA acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur. “Protecting children from exposure to lead-based paint is one of EPA’s highest priorities.”