Thousands of rental units nationwide will be rendered safe from lead-based paint hazards due to an agreement announced Wednesday involving the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and an Alexandria, Va.-based landlord.

HUD applauds the owners of AvalonBay Communities Inc. for agreeing to undertake an extensive testing and abatement program after a self-audit determined the company may have failed to provide lead-based paint disclosure information to some of its tenants.

AvalonBay currently owns and manages 23 apartment complexes throughout the United States containing nearly 7,000 rental units, primarily in California. No children have tested positive for elevated blood lead levels (EBLs) in AvalonBay-owned or operated properties, according to a press statement.

“This management company deserves a lot of credit for coming forward and admitting it could have done a better job informing its tenants their homes might possibly contain lead hazards,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi. “Today’s settlement reminds us that HUD, EPA, local health departments and private property owners can work together to protect the health and safety of young children.”

As a result of the settlement, AvalonBay inspected all its units for lead-based paint and conducted lead-based paint abatement or lead-based paint hazard control work on those found to contain lead. It’s estimated the total cost of these activities is more than $350,000. In addition, the company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $7,500.

The allegations involve violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 and the Lead Disclosure Rule. The law and its regulations require sellers and landlords of housing constructed prior to 1978 to provide each purchaser or tenant with a lead information pamphlet, any 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. Sellers are also required to provide purchasers with an opportunity to conduct a lead-based paint inspection.

In 2003, AvalonBay approached HUD and EPA and proposed to conduct a self-audit to determine if its tenants were properly given lead-based paint disclosure information as required by the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. The company agreed to inspect all of its properties and determined all but five were free of lead-based paint. AvalonBay then undertook lead-based paint abatement work on two of the five remaining properties, rendering them lead-free. In addition, the company agrees to interim controls and an ongoing maintenance program to control lead hazards in the remaining properties in the future.

In a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that even at low levels, lead exposure in children can significantly impact IQ and even delay puberty in young girls. At higher levels, lead can damage a child’s kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death.

AvalonBay Communities’ properties include:

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