Lead Programs with Philip Salmon

This is part of the Worcester Rental Real Estate Networking and Training series.

[Start 0:00:00]

Rich: Next guy we have coming up, his name is Phil Salmon. He works with the City of Worcester in Inspectional Services. He’s been with that department for 28 years now. That’s a pretty long time. This is another person who is intimately familiar with our type of rental units and our issues that we have. He’s been a housing inspector, lead inspector, a food inspector – how’s the food tonight? It was pretty good, right?

Philip: [unintelligible 0:00:35].

Rich: Okay, he skipped straight to dessert. I like this guy. He’s been the chief sanitarian inspector for the lead program and the court liaison for inspectional services and the lead program, so this guy knows exactly everything that we need to know, so help me welcome up Phil Salmon [applause].

Philip: Okay, the first thing I want to talk about is how we get out complaints concerning lead paint, one of the ways we get it is we have a customer service division, which takes in all the complaints concerning the city. It’s (508) 929-1300. If you have a complaint about the street, if you have a complaint about somebody’s yard, if you have a complaint about lead paint, you can call that number.

If it’s concerning a housing complaint, one of the questions they ask like if you’re a tenant and if you’re complaining about no heat, one of the questions they’ll ask is do you have a child under 6 living in the apartment or house? If the parent says yes, the customer service person will offer the complainant a lead determination. Do you want a lead determination done at your apartment? If they say yes, then when the inspector comes out, they will do a lead determination.

All of our housing inspectors are lead determinators. The difference between a lead determinator and a lead inspector is a lead determinator can only test 20 areas in a house or on the outside of the house for lead paint. If in that 20 areas they don’t find lead paint, then a lead inspector has to come. A lead inspector is someone who is certified to inspect the whole house.

If the inspector comes out and a lead determinator and finds out a violation, what happens is the owner of the property is issued an order to correct. That order to correct is delivered by certified mail or by a constable if they live in the city. Once they receive that order, they have 60 days to get the place inspected by a lead inspector and then they have to have a contract or notification that they’re going to start work to correct the problems. If after 60 days, they haven’t notified me with the full report or the notification, I’ll refer it to court for what they call show cause, probable cause hearing.

If they show up in court, I tried to get at least one continuance for them to try to decide what they want to do because a lot of times, they’ll come to court and they haven’t done anything. They haven’t got the place inspected and they just show up in court. And so what I try to do (1) is what I’ll be talking about a little bit later is that we have a grant in the city, the WLAP grant, the Worcester Lead Paint Abatement Program. Has anybody heard of that program here?

Okay, so I tried to have them first talk to those people to see if they would like to apply for the program because as you know, deleading a property can be very, very costly. If I can get one continuance, I get a continuance for a month. After a month, if they are unable to qualify for the program or for whatever reason, I probably have to refer it to go in front of a judge. When it goes in front of a judge, it goes in front of a judge as a criminal complaint. Then when they’re in front of the judge, they’re arraigned. The landlord is arraigned on a criminal offense of failing to delead lead paint at their apartment, or house, or building.

[0:05:23]

Usually they get 60 days before the trial occurs to go for this lead paint violation. During that 60 days ‑ I’ve been doing this for 5 years as the court liaison. I’ve only had one case go in front of a judge for a trial. Most people do ‑ once they go in front of the judge – were able to work something out where they don’t have to go as a criminal offense. Sometimes I can convert it from a criminal complaint to a civil complaint. A civil complaint is it’s not a criminal complaint. There’s no ‑ but under certain circumstances, the apartment has to be vacant and there has to be agreement. I have to see evidence that they are making a tenant to delead the building. They’re really going in the process of getting a license or they have notification to start the work.

Another way in which I get complaints is through the state. The state, every time they bring a child in for physical during certain periods before they turn 6 years old ‑ that’s one thing I want to straighten out ‑ once the child turns 6 years old, the lead law does not have any power. If the child is 5 years old 364 days, we can do a lead inspection. But once they turn 6 years old, we don’t have any power. The only way the state will still enforce the law is if when they got the complaint the child was under 6 years old. The state gives us a lot referrals.

The pediatricians ‑ if the level the state wants every time a child comes in for a physical, their blood is tested and those levels are sent into the state. If a level over 10 is reported ‑ of course they are reported ‑ but if the level is over 10, the state becomes concerned. What the state does if the level is over 10, they send out a community health worker to ask the parent if they want a lead determination. If it’s between 15 to 20, they get a little bit more concerned. Between 20 and 24, they try to make a really good effort to get that parent to have a lead determination done.

The parent can say, “Hey, my child [unintelligible 0:08:10] lead poison in the room we live in. I don’t want an inspection. I don’t want a lead determination.”

They can say, “Hey, go away!”

But if the child is 25 and above, it’s considered poison, and they cannot turn the community health worker away. They have to have an inspection done. If they don’t have the inspection done, then the parent will be brought to court for child neglect.

Rich: You say 25. That’s a measurement in the blood?

Philip: Measurement in the blood, yes.

Rich: Okay, this is not a 25-year-old dating paint chips? Okay, got you [laughter].

Philip: No, okay.

Rich: Are there any units ‑ we have a couple of questions from the members.

Philip: Okay.

Rich: One of them was, “Are there any units that are exempt from the regulations?” I know there was something that came up earlier.

Philip: The only way that they’re exempt is if the house was built after ’78. Any house – if it was built in 1975, the chances of having lead paint in that house is probably very slim. But if the house was built before ’78, they need a letter of compliance. If, for example, one of my other duties in the department of inspectional services is doing certificate of fitness. What I do with certificate of fitness, one of the first questions I ask is there going to be children under 6 living in that apartment or house? If they say yes, well you need a lead certificate if the house was built before ’78. I can’t do the inspection unless they have a lead certificate.

Rich: Okay, now another question was, “If there aren’t going to be any children under 6, if these people have a crystal bulb that they can look into and no one is ever going to ask to live there that’s going to be under 6, does the apartment have to be deleaded?”

[0:10:00]

Philip: No. There’s nothing in the law that says that for example most of us grew up in single-family houses that have lead paint. There’s no requirement for a family raising their family in a house that has lead paint. There’s nothing in the law, the house I grew up in, the house you probably grew up in.

Rich: Sure. When we grew up, you could write in the back windshield of a car, too [laughter].

Philip: But there’s nothing in the law.

Rich: Yeah. I just want to double check.

Philip: The law strongly says that your house should be deleaded, but it doesn’t say that it has to be deleaded.

Rich: Got you.

Philip: There’s nothing in the law.

Rich: Would you be able to speak to, if somebody does have a letter of compliance, but let’s say it’s old. Let’s say it’s 12, 15, 20 years old, is that a guarantee forever that they’re going to be able to stay in compliance if they got it?

Philip: No. A letter of compliance can go out of compliance in as little as a month because what can happen is we’ve had situations where a private inspector has done an inspection in a house or an apartment and we get called out for a poisoned child living there or just because they want to have an inspection.

If there is a letter of compliance at that house, we get that letter of compliance and we try to get the report of the original inspection. Sometimes the inspectors miss something. We’re not out there to try to police inspectors, but when we’re called out, we do find where inspectors miss something and a letter of compliance is not a guarantee.

Rich: I mean something as simple like a hole in the siding that had got‑

Philip: That’s out of compliance.

Rich: You can lose your ‑

Philip: That’s out of compliance.

Rich: So now if you have like 10 units in that building, all 10 units could be out of compliance‑

Philip: Yes.

Rich: Because the exterior‑

Philip: Yes.

Rich: It doesn’t last forever. It‑

Philip: It doesn’t last forever.

Rich: Yeah.

Philip: A lot of the inspectors back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they were giving out letters of initial compliance, and they really weren’t initials of compliance because we go out there and we find violations all the time.

Sandra: If you have like compliance letters that are – I don’t need it – that are 1995‑

Philip: Yes.

Sandra: Are you saying like right now‑

Philip: Right now.

Sandra: That letter of compliance does not have –

Philip: Okay.

Sandra: Okay. I have a lead compliance.

Philip: Okay.

Sandra: 1995. We’ve been using it for the last several years.

Philip: Okay.

Sandra: There hasn’t been anybody that’s been tested that had a high lead level. Is my 1995 letter of lead compliance effective?

Philip: Well, I can’t guarantee that that letter of compliance is still in compliance.

Male Audience 1: But it doesn’t [unintelligible 0:12:58]

Philip: Yeah. Well, there’s-

Sandra: They’re asking if there’s an expiration.

Philip: There’s no expiration date. It doesn’t say when it expires, but you can’t guarantee that it’s still in compliance. One of the things that you should look for (1) loose flaking paint. If there is loose flaking paint above 5 feet, if a state inspector comes out because of a poisoned kid, they’re going to write you up. They’re going to say that letter of compliance is no good, so it’s loosing flaking paint is the main violation that occurs.

Sandra: All things considered.

Philip: Yeah.

Rich: It doesn’t expire unless something changes.

Philip: I wish I can tell you [laughter].

Female Audience 1: What would you give [unintelligible 0:13:38]?

Philip: Yeah, really.

Rich: I know people have a lot of questions. One of the members submitted a question and I thought this was interesting. “Is there a list of properties that do have ‑”

Philip: I think that was touched on before. The state has a database. It’s the Lead Safe Homes database. If you just Google that, that will come up.

Rich: Okay.

Philip: That will be for all of Massachusetts, but the problem with this database is that I believe it started somewhere in the ‘90s, and there’s a lot of houses that were deleaded in the ‘70s, in the ‘80s. Not to say that those letters of compliance are still in compliance, but there’s still lead that’s out there, and the city also has their own database. That database goes back to 1975, so if anybody wants to call me, I can tell you if your property was deleaded in Worcester. It’s Worcester.

Rich: Worcester is pretty good about keeping stuff online, I have to say overall.

Philip: Yeah. If anybody is interested, I can give you my number and I get ‑

Rich: That’s dangerous [laughter].

Philip: I probably get like probably 15 to 20 calls a week from people who want to know if their house or apartment has been deleaded.

Rich: Got you.

Philip: Yeah.

Rich: All right, excellent. I think, yes we were talking about grant money. You had mentioned the WLAP. There are a lot of acronyms. There’s a CLPPP – I think there’s like seven P’s at the end of it.

[0:15:02]

Philip: We have the WLAP program.

Rich: That’s what is was.

Philip: WLAP Program unfortunately right now, the grant is running down, and they’re in the process of applying for another grant. Hopefully, they’re going to get another grant because the grant makes my job a lot easier. I don’t know how many properties that have been deleaded under orders to correct because what happens with the WLAP Program is their priority is (1) poisoned kids. If we get an order to correct and there’s a child that’s poisoned there, that goes to the top of the list. That house gets deleaded pretty quickly. (2) Orders to correct, and that comes from lead determinations and from elevations.

One of the biggest problems we have with the WLAP Program is that a lot of times we may be dealing with disgruntled tenants. When you’re dealing with a disgruntled tenant, it’s a big problem when you’re applying for the WLAP grant because in order to qualify for the grant, the tenant has to make – there’s a threshold, which they can make, and usually most tenants don’t make above this threshold. But they have to give their financial information, and tenants don’t like giving up their financial information. It makes it very difficult.

If you have a good relationship with your tenant, it works, but if you don’t have a good relationship with your tenant, it’s very hard. It’s very difficult. The only way in order to correct, it becomes easier if that tenant moves out and you apply for the grant and you keep that apartment vacant, you are able to apply for the grant a lot easier that way.

Rich: Got you. The parlance for that one is WLAP. I’ve been told the other one, the CLPPP, it’s not called the clap. I’m told they call it clip, so keep that in mind‑

Philip: And the other program is Get the Lead Out Money. Get the Lead Out Money, it’s run through – the local vendor that’s doing it right now is RCAP, and the way that Get the Lead Out works is the owner has to apply to RCAP, and it’s a lengthy process. Once all the applications are filled out, the RCAP goes to a bank, and they present it to the bank and the bank will put up the money at low interest rate, I believe. I’m not really an expert on Get the Lead Out Money but it comes through the banks. But it’s a lengthy process.

Rich: There are some banks if your property is an LLC or corporation, if you can show that in the prior year, your LLC or corporation posted a profit of any amount, there are some banks that will give you a line of credit starting at $50,000. Like in a pinch if you needed to, you can get the money to delead something in addition to or instead of the programs if you don’t qualify for them. There’s also the $1,500 estate tax credit and that’s per unit. Is that right?

Philip: I believe. I’m not an expert on that.

Rich: You’re not‑

Philip: No, no, no.

Rich: It’s per unit. You may have already touched on this, but what’s the website where somebody can find the list of inspectors and certified deleaders are. Where do we do specifically to find that list?

Philip: You could find that on the state website and you go to Health and Humans Services Mass dot Gov, Health and Human Services ‑ Mass.gov. Under it, they have like an alphabet, and you just hit L for lead and that will bring you up to the lead website.

Rich: Excellent, okay so [crosstalk 0:19:04] ‑

Philip: The one thing I just want to make clear is that if you rent an apartment that doesn’t have a lead certificate, you’re taking a real gamble because what happens a lot is that you rent the apartment, and you think that you don’t have a tenant hat has a child under 6. Well, they may move somebody in there really quickly, and then you’re going to have a real problem.

Rich: What? Tenants don’t just move people.

Philip: Yeah [laughter].

Female Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:19:33].

Rich: I’ve never heard of [laughter].

Philip: Yeah. I don’t know if‑

Rich: That’s crazy talk.

Philip: The tenant notification law, are you all familiar with the tenant notification law?

Sandra: Yes.

Philip: You are, okay.

Rich: Well, you mentioned it anyway.

Philip: Okay, the tenant notification law is for houses built before 1978, every time you rent out that apartment, if the person is 85 or if they have a child under 6, you have to notify that tenant before you rent it the status of the house with lead paint: (1) Lead certificate. (2) You know there’s lead paint but I never did anything about it. (3) I don’t know if there’s lead paint there. So…

[0:20:15]

Rich: And then they have to initial that they received an EPA pamphlet.

Philip: Yeah, there’s a form. There’s a form.

Rich: Yeah.

Philip: I got a copy of the form right here if you want to put that on your website.

Rich: Yeah, we’re just going to read that line-by-line right now [laughter]. No, we’re not. We only have a couple of minutes left [crosstalk 0:20:30].

Philip: This tells you a lot about lead paint, too. It’s good information.

Rich: Okay, excellent, so who’s close that has a question?

Sandra: [unintelligible 0:20:39] office?

Philip: I do. I have them at the office.

Rich: You are not close.

Female Audience 2: [unintelligible 0:20:44].

Rich: All right.

Philip: Yeah

Rich: So we have a couple of minutes left, so let’s try to talk quickly.

Female Audience 2: If a tenant has signed the form, the tenant, the lead certification form, then they stay on. Do they get to sign it each year or can that one time of the new lease be enough?

Philip: I believe once you sign it, that’s your obligation‑

Female Audience 2: Okay.

Philip: Once they move in.

Female Audience 2: Okay, thanks.

Rich: All right, Andy has a question.

Andy: Just real quick. This is regarding the hiring of deleading contractor and the RRP regulations. Does that apply to a vacant dwelling that you buy? I mean I have a number of customers I have to inspect these properties. I am sure they’ll buy a vacant three-family. They have the wrong crews. They are not licensed inspectors. They’re not certified anything. They just go in there and they rip the place apart. They completely gut it.

Philip: That’s a gamble.

Andy: What do you mean that’s a gamble?

Philip: Well, if they’re not RRP certified‑

Andy: They’re taking everything out.

Philip: Yeah.

Andy: It’s mostly a lot of them are down to studs. So does that ‑

Philip: You’re the RRP [crosstalk 0:21:55].

Andy: RRP course certified. I mean you want to find social security numbers for any of the people that are there working, but that’s a whole separate issue.

Gary: Under the Massachusetts RRP regulation, vacant properties are covered. The closest thing there is to that example you gave that’s an exemption would be total removal of a building. When a building is taken down completely to the foundation and beyond, so that there is nothing left, that process is exempt from the RRP rule. But what we would normally refer to as gutting a building is not exempt and all of the RRP rules apply to that. For the RRP rule, it doesn’t matter that it’s vacant. Even if it’s occupied, it doesn’t matter whether there is a child under 6 or not under 6.

The RRP rules ‑ and remember this is not deleading ‑ this is for renovation activity, which is not for the purpose of achieving the letter of compliance. I should point out when that process of deleading starts, it starts when there is an initial inspection. If there is an initial comprehensive inspection and you intend to end the process with a reinspection to certify deleading compliance, all of the work that happens in between those two things is deemed to be deleading activity if it accomplishes the result of removing lead paint or achieving deleading compliance.

Rich: And what’s the penalty for unauthorized deleading if you don’t step on all the things you were supposed to do the right way?

Gary: In effect, it means there is a denial of the ability to get a letter of compliance. That transaction is then posted in the state’s database for that address, which means any subsequent owner would also have difficulty in getting it, although there is a process that an inspector goes through to help a new owner, who was involved in that activity, getting a letter of compliance.

Andy: So‑

Gary: You can ‑

Andy: I buy a building. I completely gut it. I completely gut it. I’m not RRP. I don’t get the delead contract. I don’t get – just completely gut it, all put back together, brand-new everything, and there’s an inspector went in. They’re saying that me or the other person that does that cannot get a lead-free certificate.

Gary: Well, I would‑

Rich: Excuse me. Can I please repeat the question real quick because it doesn’t show up?

Gary: Okay.

Rich: If you gut a building, if you got a unit, and you put all new fixtures, all new walls, everything in it, you cannot ‑ the question we’re saying you can’t get a lead compliance certificate because you didn’t have the RRP or you didn’t have ‑

Gary: No, no. it’s not exactly that. In the example you just gave, you can get a letter of compliance if that renovation work that you did is then followed by a comprehensive lead paint inspection that finds no lead hazards. The inspector can then an issue a letter that’s called a letter of full initial compliance. The fact that the RRP rules weren’t followed does not impact getting a letter of deleading compliance. Also the key is the starting point for the deleading process, which is the comprehensive initial lead inspection.

[0:25:26]

Now in the example you gave, there was a violation of the RRP rules, but assuming that’s an unenforced because nobody complained about it, then the main starting point for the compliance is when there is a comprehensive initial inspection. Some owners do gut out properties and then call in inspectors to do full inspection, and then there’s nothing stopping the inspector in the way the process works from issuing a compliance letter.

Rich: All right.

Andy: It’s not that let’s say you did the RRP first before you get compliant, right?

Gary: No, there’s nothing in the process to work like that.

Rich: And we’re going to leave it there. We are out of time. Let’s hear for Phil Salmon from the city, Gary Kelleher, thank you very much [applause]. Guys, have a good night!

[End 0:26:28]

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