TOLEDO, Ohio — Toledo announces a big milestone in efforts to clean up lead in the city's rental properties Friday.
More than 3,000 new landlords have registered with the county auditor's office since the lead compliance law passed last October.
City officials say getting people identified is the first step to getting homes lead-compliant.
Toledo’s Residential Rental Properties and Lead Safety Compliance law require rental properties with four units or fewer built before 1978, and family child-care homes built before 1978, to be registered with the Lucas County Auditor’s office by Wednesday, June 30. After registering, the properties must pass an inspection and obtain lead-safe certificates.
Department of Neighborhoods director Rosalyn Clemens says close to 12,000 rental owners have now signed up with the registry, which her office believes is half of all the rental properties in the city. It's their goal to identify all of the properties that need to become lead compliant.
"Almost 80 percent of our housing stock was built before 1978 and is susceptible to lead poisoning," Clemens said.
Stephanie Beebe, the city's lead-safe coordinator says it only takes a tiny amount of daily lead exposure like a grain of sugar to severely harm a child.
"Toledo has over triple the lead poisoning rate using last five years statistics," she said, "so Toledo runs around 7 percent, the rest of Ohio runs around 1.5."
After a property is registered, you can schedule a lead inspection. It will look for peeling, chipping paint, bare soil around the home and dust around the home and all be tested for lead.
Jeff Savage owns close to 500 rental properties throughout the Toledo area and has registered all of them. He joined city officials to urge other rental owners to get registered with the county and comply with the new lead ordinance. But he says that's easier said than done.
"I think residents of our town would be shocked at how many properties in Toledo are owned by out of town," he said. "When I'm competing for homes, I'm competing with someone from Australia...The first thing we need to do is identify our inventory. We need to know who owns what."
Clemens says it's the out-of-town owners who do not comply and do not care. They are looking into how other cities are handling this issue with enforcement.
But Savage says this is a starting point for Toledo to create better compliance with not just lead but across the board.
"If you're a restaurant, you have to be licensed, you have to be up for inspections," he said. "They're feeding people, we're housing people. As far as I'm concerned that's nearly as serious, so I think we should be licensed."
Savage added he has seen electrical and carbon monoxide issues just to name a few. But he also says going after other issues could cause rent to go up for the sake of safer housing, which is why government grants and subsidies can help.
"Unintended consequences of fixing these houses, if you're going to have to invest $10,000 in your house, you're not going to have a $500 rental anymore," he said.
He has butted heads with the city on the lead ordinance, specifically over the dust wiping part of inspections, but he says he plans to have his properties compliant by the end of the year and wants to see even more done.
"I think we should have a list of things we should be getting compliant on," he said, "lead for sure is one of them, maybe this is the start of us cleaning things up."
The city is offering the following two grant programs to help rental owners: the Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes grant provides lead abatement services for both owner-occupant and rental owners; and the Early Bird Match grant, which provides a 50 percent match, up to $5,000 per unit, for a rental owners’ costs to become certified lead-safe under the ordinance whether that’s just your inspection or a whole new exterior paint job
Rental owners can sign up on the county auditor's website and must do so by June 30 or face penalties.
You can also find more information on the lead ordinance, signing up to get your lead certificate and even information about becoming a lead-safe inspector or contractor at toledoleadsafe.com.