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Ask Sam: Should I ask my landlord to test my apartment for lead?

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My lease states that the landlord doesn't have any information regarding whether there's lead in my apartment. But the paint in my bathroom has been peeling for some time now, and I'm worried about the health risks if there is lead. Can I get my landlord to perform a lead test?


Unless you have a child under six residing in your apartment, your best bet is to pay for the lead testing yourself rather than involving your landlord, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations. 

Under New York's lead paint law, if your building was constructed before 1978 and there's a child under six living in the apartment, your landlord is required to investigate and remediate lead paint. "If you don't have a child under six, then the New York City lead paint law doesn't apply," says Himmelstein.

And in the interest of both keeping the peace with your landlord and ensuring you get accurate information, Himmelstein suggests having the testing done yourself if you're concerned. "There are plenty of companies that will come in and do it for between $500 and $1,000," he says. "You want your own objective expert, not one hired by the landlord. And if there's not lead, why make an issue about it? It's better to get the information before a confrontation.

If tests do turn up lead in your apartment, notes Himmelstein's colleague Janet Ray Kalson, "There are federal rules about how to do work in an apartment built before 1978—where the law presumes that there is lead—and the landlord has to hire people who are licensed by the federal government [to come in and remediate]."

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Sam Himmelstein, Esq., represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan.  To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.

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