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Frequently asked questions about lead paint testing

What do the new law changes mean?

In spring of 2012 Maryland passed a new law that moved the cutoff date for required lead paint inspections from 1950 to 1978. The law goes into effect January 1st, 2015.

Effective January 1, 2015 all pre 1978 rental homes in maryland that have a tenant turnover will need a lead paint inspection.

Our clients are employing three different strategies to deal with the new law.

  • Strategy 1: Do nothing until Jan 1, 2015
  • Strategy 2: Start testing now and receive the certificate to ensure that all of your properties are in compliance by 2015.
  • Strategy 3: As tenants turnover between now and 2015, do the inspection and receive the certificates.

Options 2 and 3 have several advantages:

  1. When Jan 1, 2015 arrives, you will be able to opt out of the $30 per unit per year fee (assuming you are lead free or limited lead free).
  2. You will have the inspection completed and a certificate issued, therefore there would be no delay to place a new tenant.
  3. You know what needs to be done to be in compliance. Even if you don’t get the work done right away, you’ll at least know what needs to be done.
  4. You have a layer of protection if you ever end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

The advantage to Strategy 1 is that you delay any costs as long into the future as possible.

The good news is that most of the homes that fall under the new law (1950-1978) will more than likely be lead free or limited lead free or very close to it (see below).

Can I get a lead free certificate for my house?

This can be a complicated answer. The simple answer is that we won’t know until we get to the house and assess the lead paint situation. But, here are some guidelines and some rules of thumb:

  • Almost all houses built before the early 40s are loaded with lead based paint, unless they were stained originally or have gone through a full gut rehab.
  • Properties built after the early 40s are lead free on the interior or close to it.
  • Properties built after the mid 1960s are lead free on the exterior.
  • If the property has original wooden windows, the above rules can be negated.
  • Also, if a property has been totally rehabbed, it can be lead free even if it was built before the early 40s.

Where is the lead based paint in a house?

If you have lead paint, it’s usually in the moldings: window casings, windows (if they are original) door casings, baseboards, staircases, etc. It can be in the walls, but not usually. Once again, these are rules of thumb. We won’t know until we test.

The rule of thumb for the exterior is that if the house has lead paint on the exterior, it will be ALL the original exterior components.

How do you make a component ‘lead free?’

There are three ways to make a component lead free:

  1. Strip it
  2. Replace it
  3. Enclose it. Enclosure is defined as a rigid material that has been mechanically fastened. Enclosure is an approved method in MD.

Unfortunately, painting a surface, even with special ‘lead block’ paint does not make it lead free.

Why don’t you recommend ‘stripping’ as a way to make something lead free?

It’s easy to strip the first 95% of the component. The last 5% is very difficult and will usually still test positive. Stripping does make sense in some specific cirucumstances (historic areas, etc) but it’s not a great option for normal circumstances.

If you do decide to strip, please make sure that you call us back to reinspect prior to repainting. This is important because the lead can leach into the wood and if you’ve already repainted it, we won’t be able to tell if the stripping was done correctly if the lead paint has leached into the wood.

What is the difference between ‘lead free’ and ‘limited lead free?’

Lead free means you are lead free on the interior and exterior of the property and you are done forever. No need to ever get a lead paint inspection ever again.

Limited lead free means you are lead free on the interior of the property, but there is lead paint on the exterior or common areas of the property. You are done forever on the interior of the unit, but the exterior and common areas need to be reinpsected every two years (simple visual exterior and common area only inspection).

How ‘deep’ does the XRF gun penetrate?

The XRF gun will read through all the layers of paint (about 50 layers). It will not read through the substrate.


How do I pass the Full Risk Reduction inspection (dust swipes)?

There are two parts to the inspection:

  1. No chipping, peeling, flaking paint anywhere at the property, inside, outside and the basement
  2. After the number 1 is done, then we take the swipes. There are 3 things that will predictably fail the dust swipes:
    • Wooden windows. When there are wooden windows we are required to take two swipes per room. One of those swipes is from the window well. The window well must be spotlessly/white glove clean. The window well is the area that the window sash closes down on top of. You have to lift the window up to clean the well.
    • Basement floors. Unfinished basement floor have a very high propensity to fail the dust swipes. Cleaning them is an option, but it’s tough to get them clean. In most cases, we recommend to paint the floors if they are raw concrete.
    • After a rehab. When a rehab is done, lead dust flies everywhere. It’s really important to have the property spotlessly clean. After a tenant moves out it needs to be clean. After a rehab it needs to be spotlessly clean.

What do I need to do to comply with the law with regards to lead paint inspections in Maryland?

There are four things you need to do:

  1. Have a valid lead paint certificate
  2. Have the property registered with the MDE.
  3. Give the tenants the Maryland’s Notice of Tenants Rights along with the EPA Brochure and have them sign that they received them.
  4. Every two years have the tenants sign that they received the above pamphlets.

Can I opt out of the $30 per unit fee to the MDE?

Yes, currently, if the property is built in 1950 or after (per SDAT website) or the property is limited lead free or lead free, you can opt out and not pay the fee.

After January 1, 2015, if the rental property was built 1978 or later, then it is exempt from registration. If the rental property was built prior to 1978, you can opt out of the registration fee if the property is lead free or limited lead free.

What kind of payment do you take?

We take cash, credit cards or checks.

When is payment due?

Payment is due at the time of the inspection. We accept cash, checks and credit cards.

I don’t know if I’m ready for a lead inspection. When should I call you?

It’s a complicated question, and depends on individual circumstances. Here are some guidelines. If you are trying to attain a lead free certificate, you should call us right away. You always want to do lead free inspections up front, while the unit is still being rehabbed. That way we can identify anything that needs to be done prior to the work being completed. We make a list of what needs to be abated, so you know exactly what component needs to be removed.

If you believe you have lead based paint in your property, then we should come in at the end after you have stabilized all the defective interior, exterior and basement paint and the house has been cleaned and is rent ready.

If you still aren’t sure, we’ll come out and assess the house. If it’s lead free, we will keep going with a lead free inspection. If it has lead, but is not ready for an inspection, we’ll make a list of what needs to be done and then we’ll come back after the work has been completed to take the swipes.

What about exterior waivers so that I don’t have to try to paint the exterior of the house in the wintertime?

This can get complicated. First, exterior waivers are only available for full risk reduction certificates (dust swipes). There are no exterior waivers for limited lead free certificates.

Exterior waivers are available on dust swipe inspections from November 1st until April 1st. The waivers expire on April 30.

We will release the waivers for no charge if the following conditions are met:

  • The property has to be reinspected by April 30th (drop-dead date).
  • The client submits a supervisor statement to us. An MDE accredited lead paint maintenance supervisor must sign the supervisor statement. It is important to note that the contractor needs to be an MDE accredited contractor not just an EPA RRP accredited contractor.

What is the difference between an MDE accredited contractor and an EPA accredited contractor?

An MDE accredited contractor must be used to perform any kind of LEAD PAINT ABATEMENT on a RENTAL property in Maryland. An EPA RRP contractor needs to be used to do any kind of renovation or repairs on any pre 1978 residential property.

What should I be thinking of as a homeowner?

Lots of good homeowner tips here.