Beginning January 1, if you own a rental property in Maryland that was built before 1978, you must register with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The new law extends the existing registration requirement for homes used as rental units built before 1950. The registration fee is $30 per unit, and must be renewed annually prior to December 31st.
Since the registration of rental properties built before 1978 began July 1st, many landlords and property managers have been planning to be in compliance by the New Year. However, many home owners, whose selling strategy includes a simultaneous rental listing, may not be aware of the new law; which could not only affect a potential lease, but may also incur potential penalties and/or liability for non-compliance. The coinciding listing strategy is an artifact from the market following the housing downturn; when many listed homes that did not sell were extemporaneously rented as a means to ride out the market, with the intention to sell at a later time when prices increased. For many home sellers today, a simultaneous rental listing is part of a selling strategy as a means to allow them to move (either by selling the home or by renting it to a tenant).
It is not uncommon that some of these sale/rental home listings are vacant. If you find yourself in this category, consider that you’re required to have the property registered with the MDE and lead inspected by an MDE accredited inspector before your tenant moves in. If the inspection requires any remediation to meet Program requirements, all work must be performed by a MDE accredited contractor.
If you’ve never registered with MDE Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, you need to contact the Rental Registry Division (410-537-4199) to be assigned a “tracking number.” A list of accredited inspectors and accredited contractors can be found on the “Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” website (www.mde.state.md.us/lead). Registration likely began early so as not to create bottlenecks and delays; however, if there is a chance your home could become a rental sometime during the New Year, you might consider not waiting until the last minute.
A July 1st MDE press release (news.maryland.gov/mde) emphasized that, “Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age 6, while their neurological systems are developing. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.” And although lead poisoning cases decreased about 98% since the enactment of Maryland’s 1994 Lead Risk Reduction in Housing Act, a significant number of new lead poisoning cases were linked to homes built before 1978. The MDE cited a 2011 study, which found an 80% “likelihood” of lead paint in properties built between 1950 and 1960. The MDE also cited data analysis that almost half of the confirmed cases of initial lead poisoning reports from the last two years in Maryland counties outside of Baltimore City, “involved children living in post-1949 rental housing.” The MDE states, “Failure to register, certify or follow approved lead-safe work practices may subject property owners to thousands of dollars in fines and potential lawsuits.”
Details about the lead registration requirements and further information about the MDE Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can be obtained from the website (www.mde.state.md.us/lead).
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX All Pro in Rockville, MD. You can access more information at www.DanKrell.com.