The Annual Inspection for Lead Hazards in New York City

The Landlord Claims That He Wants to Enter My Apartment to Make a Yearly Inspection for Lead Based Paint Hazards – Is This Legitimate?

Question: I live in an apartment building in New York City and my superintendent just told us that the landlord wants to make what he calls an “annual inspection” of my apartment for the presence of lead based paint hazards. I am not sure what to do – should I let them into the apartment – and if so, what should I permit them to do?

New York has special rules for the prevention of lead based paint hazards in apartments in which young children reside. Local Law #1 of 2004 mandates that the landlords of buildings located in New York City which have three of more apartments, and which were built before January 1, 1960[1], and in which a child of less than 6 years of age resides, must perform annual visual inspections of each such apartment. Once aware that children covered by the law live in the apartment, they must perform a visual inspection of the entire common areas in the building as well.

The mandated visual inspection is to be comprehensive. It must include the visual inspection of all chewable surfaces, deteriorated sub-surfaces, friction surfaces, and impact surfaces.

New York City Regulations require the landlord to inspect every room in the dwelling unit. The inspection must include the visual review of each and every surface in the apartment including the interiors of closets and cabinets.

This inspection must occur at least once a year.

There are situations where a landlord may be required to undertake such an inspection more than once a year. This occurs if the landlord in the exercise of reasonable care, knows or should know, that a condition reasonably foreseeable to cause a lead based paint hazard has arisen. There are many circumstances which may be the basis for the additional inspection requirement.  Among them may be when a leak from a pipe or a leak emanating from another apartment which causes paint damage in the dwelling where a child covered by this law resides. It may include moisture conditions of which the landlord has reason to be aware, as well as any condition which may cause displacement of paint or dust dispersal from the surfaces in the apartment.

The law also requires additional visual inspections if an occupant makes a complaint regarding a condition that is likely to cause a lead-based paint hazard. Another circumstance requiring an additional visual apartment inspection is if the occupant directly requests such an additional inspection or if the Department of Housing Preservation and Development issues a notice of violation or they order the correction of a violation that is likely to cause a lead based paint hazard.

New York City regulations require the landlord to maintain records of the inspection of dwelling units performed to prevent a lead hazard. The record must include the location of the inspection as well as the results of the inspection for each surface in each room.

What happens if the landlord cannot gain access to the apartment or at least claims that such was the reason that he did not inspect?

The mandated record requirement includes records which describe the attempts made by the landlord to gain access to the apartment. In order to verify compliance with the law, the mandated records include but are not be limited to maintaining a copy of written notice to the tenant of the intent to inspect, which must be delivered by certified or registered mail, or by first class mail with proof of mailing issued by the United States Postal Service.

The notice must inform the tenant of the necessity of access to the dwelling unit to perform the inspection and the reason access could not be gained by the landlord.

The landlord has a strict ten (10) year record keeping requirement. If he sells the building he is required to turn such records over to the new owner who must maintain the records for the balance of the ten (10) year period.

What happens if the tenant wants a copy of the inspection records?

The law mandates that the landlord make such records available to the occupant of the dwelling unit upon request.

[1] If the unit was built between January 1, 1960 and January 1, 1978, the law requires actual notice of lead based paint as well as the child living there of applicable age.

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