Legal Foundation for the Inspection Program


Proactive rental inspection programs rely on legal foundations included in the ordinance to give the city the power to adopt a program to address the lead poisoning issue. Common elements built into ordinances include:

All housing built before 1978 is presumed to contain lead paint. 

  • Rochester, §90-53. Presumptions and obligations.

A. For purposes of this article, all paint on the interior or exterior of any residential building on which the original construction was completed prior to January 1, 1978 shall be presumed to be lead-based.

B. For purposes of this article, all paint on the exterior of any non-residential structure on which the original construction was completed prior to January 1,1978 shall be presumed to be lead-based.

C. Any person seeking to rebut these presumptions shall establish through the means set forth in Section 90-56 that the paint on the building or structure in question is not lead-based paint.

D. Residential buildings shall be maintained free of lead-based paint hazards

Lead hazards are a nuisance and are prohibited.

  • For example, Toledo’s ordinance states “Every Owner of Residential Rental Property shall maintain such property free from” deteriorated paint, lead dust or bare soil.
  • Cleveland’s Lead Ordinance, § 240.02  Lead Hazards Are A Nuisance   

(a)   This Council finds that lead hazards constitute a nuisance.

(b)   The Commissioner may determine that a nuisance is required to be immediately controlled under this section if, in the Commissioner’s opinion, failure to immediately control the hazard may cause a serious risk to the health of the occupants of the property. In such a case, the Commissioner may require the owner or manager of the property to immediately control the nuisance or the Commissioner may, by his or her authorized representative, immediately control such nuisance.

Bare soil is a violation.

  • Rochester, New York: “Bare soil shall not be present within the dripline of any residential building on which the original construction was completed prior to January 1, 1978.”

The city may enter rental units with the occupant’s permission or with an administrative warrant.

    • Cleveland:   Inspections; Right of Entry(a) All residential rental units shall be subject to inspection for the purpose of
      determining compliance with the provisions of this Housing Code, Chapter 240, and all
      other applicable laws, ordinances, rules and regulations. Inspections shall be conducted
      in accordance with the residential rental unit inspection schedule established by the
      Director, or as may be necessary in the Director’s discretion pursuant to specific
      complaint received under this Code.(b) The Director and the Director’s duly authorized agents or inspectors may
      enter at reasonable times any residential rental unit registered under this Chapter in
      accordance with the right of entry defined in Chapter 367.

PLEASE CONSULT WITH A LOCAL ATTORNEY! While this information is intended to share key information with community advocates and to provide examples of what has worked–or not–in other communities, each state has different laws that may add more requirements or limit how communities may design a proactive rental inspection program.

For example, Indiana Code § 36-1-20-4.1 prohibits local authorities from requiring rental inspections where the rental units are managed by a professional real estate manager, the rental community was inspected in the past year, and the community passed inspection for housing elements related to safety and habitability–but not including lead.  Further, the law prohibits a locality from addressing lead, with language that reads “A political subdivision may not add to the requirements of this subdivision.”