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Philadelphia City Council Passes Landmark Legislation to Require Lead Certification in Rental Properties

Philadelphia City Council Passes Landmark Legislation to Require Lead Certification in Rental Properties  

Dawn R. Crump, Communications Manager
 (215) 686-3438

(PHILADELPHIA) September 26, 2019 – Today, Philadelphia City Council passed bill #180936 which updates the current Philadelphia law on lead certification in rental properties. If the Mayor signs this bill into law, Philadelphia will become the largest city in the United States to require universal lead safe certifications in order to obtain a rental license. The operative word – universal.

This legislation is the final action on the package that was introduced October 2018 to protect children from the harmful effects of lead exposure and poisoning in our City. Research tells us that lead poisoning in children comes from lead in paint in the residential homes where children under 6 spend most of their time. Local, state and federal officials have been tackling the issue of lead for the last 40 years. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown stated, “My staff and I have worked persistently and consistently since 2011, to ensure that we exhausted every possible strategy for this bill to come to fruition. Council’s action today is another important step in taking a demonstrative, tangible step to further diminish the issue of lead exposure and the damaging effects it can have on children and families of Philadelphia.”

Under this new legislation, all rental properties with the exception of college dormitories are required to certify that a unit is lead-free or lead safe. This bill contemplates one common system for lead certification in the city and does so in a way that protects children in all rental properties while avoiding discriminatory outcomes that have been revealed from the current law. Data tells us it is harder for families with young children to obtain rental housing.

The bill includes an adjustment period designed to facilitate a smooth transition for both landlords and the administration. The expiration date of a certification has been extended from two years to four years but is now tied to the rental license to ensure greater compliance and enhanced enforcement. The legislation also includes landlord rights to enter the property for inspection.

In 2018, 1,568 children are being poisoned by lead in the City of Philadelphia. This new bill which is effective October 1, 2020, represents the next big step requiring universal lead testing. Regretfully, the 2011 law proved to be ineffective with only 25% compliance from the landlord community. In 2019, creating a lead-free and lead-safe City for the residents of Philadelphia is now within reach.

Ruth Ann Norton, Chief Executive Officer of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, is a national leader on lead poisoning prevention, including efforts in Baltimore, Maryland, which has similar requirements to the legislation that was passed today.

“Passing the amendments to the Philadelphia Lead Law are a huge step forward in the city’s commitment to protecting children from the lifelong impacts of lead poisoning and preserving the health and safety of its housing stock. This effort has been a culmination of Councilwoman Reynolds Brown career-long leadership in lead poisoning prevention. We deeply appreciate her continued commitment and recognize the partners who came together to advance this crucial step toward ending the toxic legacy of lead for Philadelphia’s children.”

STATEMENT FROM Dr. Thomas Farley, Commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health
“This law fundamentally changes our approach to lead exposure from dealing with it after the fact to preventing it in the first place. It’s the next step towards ending the problem of lead exposure in Philadelphia.”

STATEMENT FROM George Donnelly, Attorney, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
“We have a moral obligation to protect our children from the public health crisis caused by lead paint. The ordinance passed today by City Council creates a comprehensive framework to protect kids living in rental properties. By enacting this legislation, Philadelphia has become a national leader in preventing childhood lead poisoning.”


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