Note: As of January 1st, 2017, landlords must notify tenants of a lead issue that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) investigated before renewing a lease. They must do this by giving the tenant a copy of the mitigation notice from IDPH. They also must address the issue and get a certificate of compliance from the department before entering a new lease. This also applies when the landlord tries to sell the property. In that case, they must notify the purchaser.
The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News Gazette.
Can I have the landlord test for lead paint? If lead is found, what are my rights? Does the landlord have to remove it?
Landlords don’t have to test for lead paint. They can only be required to remove lead paint when a tenant’s blood tests show someone’s been exposed to lead.
Lead paint laws stress information over elimination. They presume that because lead paint was banned in 1978, only pre-1978 homes pose a lead paint risk. The laws therefore only apply to pre-1978 dwellings.
Both Federal and Illinois law require landlords to give tenants a general information pamphlet about the risks of lead exposure. They can use one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), titled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home.”
Federal law also requires landlords to disclose what they know about lead in your building, and give you copies of any records or reports about any lead testing done there. If they don’t know anything, they must say they don’t know. Even if tests have shown no lead hazard, you get copies of those records.
Those disclosures are supposed to be made in writing, before you move in. HUD has a form landlords can use. If any tests are done after you move in, the landlord must give you copies of those results, too.
Disclosure is all the Federal law requires. Neither Illinois nor Federal law require landlords to test for lead paint, and neither require a landlord to do anything if lead paint is actually found.
Nevertheless, there’s an undesirable back door to requiring testing for lead paint, and for lead paint abatement. That’s if you or your children show the warning signs of lead exposure.
Illinois regulations say the Department of Public Health can inspect for a lead hazard if a child’s blood level tests once at or above 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, and 3 times at 15 to 19 micrograms, or if a child under 3 tests at or above 10 micrograms.
If the IDPH inspects and finds a lead hazard, they can order the landlord to mitigate, or contain, the problem. If mitigation isn’t possible, they can then order abatement. That’s the total removal of any lead hazards.
A bad result from a test for lead in you or your family, then, is the only way you can get your apartment tested for lead risks. Otherwise, you can certainly ask the landlord to test voluntarily, but if they won’t, your only option is to pay for your own testing.
Facts about lead: A gallon of lead paint contained 12 pounds of lead, or more.
The Center for Disease Control now considers 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in children to be elevated. In 1975, when the first federal regulations said 30 micrograms was safe, the average for American kids was 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Today the average is 3 micrograms. The decline in lead levels is primarily due to the phase out of leaded gas in 1986.
Updated: January 2017