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Court requires landlord to stop exposing tenants to lead paint in rental homes

December 28, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has won a motion in court against landlord Progress Residential Management Services, LLC, one of the defendants in the Attorney General’s ongoing lawsuit against Havenbrook Homes, requiring Progress to stop exposing its tenants to dangerous lead paint in its rental homes. On Friday, December 22, 2023, the Ramsey County District Court granted Attorney General Ellison’s motion for a temporary injunction against Progress, in which the Attorney General alleged that Progress violated numerous state and federal laws regarding lead-paint hazards, including by needlessly and recklessly exposing its tenants to lead-paint dust and chips by disturbing painted surfaces without taking safety precautions, such as putting up plastic sheeting to contain debris and using a HEPA-filtered vacuum to remove debris. The Court ordered Progress to comply with Minnesota and federal lead-paint hazard laws when performing maintenance in hundreds of Progress’s Minnesota rental properties.

Progress and HavenBrook Homes, LLC (“HavenBrook”) own about 500 single-family residential properties throughout the greater Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area and are one of the largest landlords in Minnesota.

“I am relieved the court ordered that Progress follow the law and take basic safety precautions when doing work in its tenants' homes,” said Attorney General Ellison. “It is critical that landlords follow lead paint laws put in place to reduce the risk of lead poisoning. Landlords who take shortcuts put the health and safety of Minnesota’s renting families at risk, especially children, who are extremely vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. This is a positive step that provides immediate relief to hundreds of tenants who live in homes that have lead paint.”

In the order for the temporary injunction, the Court requires Progress to do the following for its Minnesota rental properties built before 1978 that have not been determined to be free of lead-based paint:

• Hire certified professionals to inspect Minnesota rental homes built prior to 1978 for the presence of lead paint before Progress begins any repairs;

• Draft lead-paint policies that comply with Minnesota and federal law and hire an independent expert to certify that Progress’s policies and procedures comply with both Minnesota and federal law;

• Train employees on Progress’s lead paint policies and procedures; and

• Provide the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office with proof of compliance with lead-paint laws every three months.

The temporary injunction order comes two days after the court ordered Progress and other Defendants to produce inspection reports completed on Minnesota rental properties managed by HavenBrook and Progress to the Attorney General’s Office.

This order is the latest development in the lawsuit Attorney General Ellison filed in February 2022 against Minnesota landlord HavenBrook Homes, LLC and HavenBrook Partners, LLC, in addition to other property owners. Progress was added as a defendant in the lawsuit in August 2022. The lawsuit alleges that the defendant landlords and property owners violated several laws by failing to timely respond to emergency maintenance requests and failing to keep the rental properties in reasonable repair, including failure to comply with Minnesota and federal paint laws, in violation of Minnesota Statute section 504B.161.

Dangers of lead paint, especially to children

Although lead-based paint was banned nationwide in 1978, the Minnesota Department of Health estimates that nearly one million homes throughout Minnesota still have surfaces coated with lead paint that can be disturbed and consumed by children. Single-family homes in the Twin Cities are particularly likely to be coated in lead-based paint: 43 percent of the homes in Minneapolis were built before 1939 (with the median home being built in 1949) and 41 percent of the homes in Saint Paul were built before 1939 (with the median home being built in 1952).

However, lead poisoning is entirely preventable if proper precautions are taken when scraping or sanding lead-based painted surfaces. Any renovation or repair in a home with lead-based paint can easily create dangerous lead dust that is identical in appearance to ordinary house dust. Occupants exposed to lead-based paint dust and chips can develop permanent and irreversible health consequences.

Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning because their growing bodies absorb more toxins and they are more likely to inhale or ingest lead-contaminated dust. Children with elevated blood-lead levels can exhibit behavioral and learning problems, have a lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, and hearing problems, many of which can be irreversible depending on the amount of exposure. Lead exposure is only detectable with a doctor's blood test and early intervention can improve a child's outcome. Anyone concerned with lead-based paint exposure is encouraged to get a blood-lead test from their doctor.

For more information about the risks of lead in the body, visit https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead.

 

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