Tenant Protections

Tenants are Protected from Retaliation:
One best practice to protect tenants seeking to address lead in their homes is to prohibit the landlord from evicting the tenants or otherwise retaliating against them. 

  • Milwaukee law protects tenants seeking to address lead in dwelling.
  • Maryland prohibits landlords from retaliating against a tenant who seeks to enforce Maryland’s lead laws. 

Tenants Can Pay Rent in Escrow: To incentivize landlord compliance with the law, some cities allow tenants to pay rent directly to an escrow account with the local court– instead of paying rent to the landlord–when a landlord fails to comply with the lead laws.

  • If a landlord fails to comply with Maryland’s lead risk reduction standards, the law allows tenants to deposit rent in an escrow account with the clerk of the local District Court in lieu of paying rent to the landlord.
  • Unfortunately, Detroit’s rent escrow provision has not been successful.  To incentivize compliance, Detroit law allows tenants to pay rent into an escrow account instead of to the landlords.  However, the local courts undermined the law by refusing to enforce this provision and instead allowed landlords to evict tenants who had used the provision.

Provide Tenants with Alternate Housing: If tenants need to vacate their home while their landlord addresses lead hazards, best practice is for the landlord to be responsible for the cost of the alternate housing.

  • Housing advocates in Buffalo, New York have asked the city to establish emergency temporary housing for families in rental units with major lead hazards.  The advocates are asking the city to use vacant public housing and to convert it into temporary facilities.
  • The Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition recommended that the city establish an action team, comprised of representatives from City of Cleveland-funded housing providers, to support families who relocate as a result of lead poisoning or a lead hazard control order.  The action team should establish a pool of available housing units for families facing relocation due to lead poisoning. The action team should troubleshoot obstacles that emerge during emergency relocation. Based on its work, the action team could produce a set of recommendations to create a larger and better relocation pipeline. For example, advocate for donated houses to support temporary relocation of families.  The action team was not written into the final ordinance.
  • San Diego, California requires landlords to cover the cost of relocation or to reimburse the city if the city covers those costs.  Here’s the language:

(a) The responsible person is responsible for the relocation and associated costs of any occupants displaced as a result of a judicial, administrative or summary abatement action pursuant to Division 10 and must follow applicable requirements of state law.

(b) If relocation costs are paid by the City, the costs shall be assessed against the responsible person as an administrative or summary abatement cost or as part of a judicial action and may be recovered pursuant to procedures in San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 1, Article 3, Division 3

Evaluate Program for Unintended Adverse Consequences:  Another best practice to protect tenants is to require the city to evaluate the proactive rental inspection program for unintended adverse consequences, such as displacement from housing, increased prices, or a shrinking rental market.  Although research from Rochester, New York demonstrated that adding lead to its rental inspection program did not have a negative effect on the rental housing market, different programs in other cities may have other unintended consequences for tenants.

  • Cleveland’s lead program requires the city to review, on an annual basis, “impacts of the lead-safe certification requirement” on displacement and “other negative unintended consequences.”  If the city identifies negative impacts, the city “will re-evaluate the program and work toward eliminating any negative impacts.”