Maryland Lead Law
Maryland Environmental Article 6-8 – “The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” Statute
Maryland Environmental Article 6-8, also referred to as Maryland Housing Bill 760, “The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” statute, was signed into law in May 1994 and became fully effective on February 24, 1996.
The law is intended to make all privately-owned pre-1950 rental housing units safer for children, while also helping rental property owners and managers to avoid costly lead poisoning litigation by complying with specific lead hazard reduction measures or a dust testing procedure set forth in the statute. This statutory provision applies to all such housing units and, at an owner’s option, to rental units built after 1949.
In essence, the law sharply limits the rights of children and their representatives to traditional tort damages for lead poisoning, provided that (1) the property owner has satisfied certain housing unit registration requirements; and (2) the unit has either passed lead dust tests or undergone a set of “risk reduction measures,” which must be verified by an independent, certified third party who performs a visual inspection. When the unit meets this standard, the owner is entitled to a limited tort immunity. However, if a child living in the unit develops an elevated blood lead level which exceeds 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the owner has the option of making a “qualified offer” to the child and his or her legal representative.
A qualified offer is, in effect, a settlement of that child’s potential lead poisoning claim and provides remedial compensation. Under the provisions established in EA 6-8 for the qualified offer, the owner and his or her insurance company would (1) offer to relocate the child’s family to a housing unit that has been certified as “lead-safe,” including payment of a rent differential if the “lead-safe” unit rents at a higher monthly rate; and (2) pay for any necessary medical treatment to mitigate the effects of lead poisoning when the treatment is not covered by a health insurance plan or public medical assistance. Relocation expenses are payable until the poisoned child reaches age six, subject to a $9,500 cap. Out-of-pocket medical expenses are payable until the poisoned child reaches the age of 18, subject to a $7,500 cap.
Since a major reason for enacting EA 6-8 was the widespread and routine application of lead liability exclusions in general liability policies covering rental housing units, the statute adds provisions to the Maryland Insurance Code which limit the circumstances under which these exclusions would be effective. Therefore, access to insurance and limited liability are the primary incentives or benefits to owners of pre-1950 units who meet the statutory risk reduction standards. Additionally, the systematic reduction of lead-based paint hazards in these older units is meant to be the primary means for preventing lead poisoning in the state.
In summary, Maryland EA 6-8 takes on some of the most difficult public health, housing, and liability issues posed by childhood lead poisoning to provide a measure of safety for children and a relief from the threat of litigation for rental property owners.