Toxins found in the environment, such as mold, lead, and other pollutants cause serious health problems. Property owners are sometimes responsible for addressing these toxins.
Any tenants living in a home with a child who has tested positive for lead poisoning may qualify for help from Legal Aid to address the lead in their home.
Lead Poisoning: Rights, Remedies & Resources
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. There is treatment for lead poisoning, but taking some simple precautions can help protect you and your family from lead exposure before harm is done.
Legal Aid can help! Click here for an informative brochure about Lead Poisoning: Know Your Rights, Remedies & Resources. You can also browse other Legal Aid articles related to lead poisoning and related FAQ’s and brochures by clicking here.
Get Tested for Lead
Young Children at Risk
Children 6 years old and under are at most risk for damage from lead poisoning. Children may be at risk of lead poisoning if:
- They live in or visit a home built before 1978.
- Paint is peeling on windows or doors.
- Large patches of bare dirt are exposed around their home.
Have your child’s doctor test your child’s blood lead levels. If you are covered by Medicaid, the lead screening will be covered. If the blood lead level is above 5 μg/dl there is cause for concern.
If the blood lead level is above 10 μg/dl, Ohio law requires the Ohio Department of Health or a local health department to inspect the child’s home for lead hazards. Update your contact information with the child’s doctor to ensure the Department of Health can inspect.
Call the Ohio Department of Health at 877-532-3723 to get more information on having the place a child lives or visits tested for lead. Cleveland residents should call 216-664-2175. Other Cuyahoga County residents should call 216-201-2000.
Get the Lead Out
If you live in a rental unit built before 1978, notify your landlord in writing if there is any peeling paint, large patches of bare dirt on the premises, or if your child has lead poisoning and request that your landlord make repairs. Date the letter and keep a copy for your records. If your landlord fails to make repairs within 30 days, under Ohio law you may:
- Deposit your rent in escrow at the court. You must be current in rent payments to use this process. See step by step directions for rent depositing at: https://tinyurl.com/LegalAidRentDeposit.
- Apply to the court to order the landlord to make repairs to lead hazards.
- Terminate your lease and move.
- Depositing rent may waive your rights to sue your landlord for any injury resulting from the lead poisoning. To consider any claims against your landlord, consult with an attorney before depositing rent.
Call Legal Aid if your landlord files an eviction or raises your rent after you have provided notice of a lead condition or because you have contacted the Health Department because of lead conditions.
Contact your local public health authorities for information on assistance programs to make your home lead-safe. Federal law requires disclosure of any known lead hazard at the time of sale.
Help Your Child
Lead poisoning may have long term effects including attention difficulties, behavior problems, or learning challenges. A nutritional diet early on may help. For more information see: www.epa.gov/lead.
A child under the age of 3 years old that has been lead poisoned may qualify for early intervention Help Me Grow services, even if they are not showing signs of delay. Call Help Me Grow at 800-755-4769.
If a child has learning or behavior problems in school, ask the school to evaluate the child for special education services. Let the school know the child was lead poisoned, and it is impacting the child’s education.
- Put the request in writing.
- Date the request and keep a copy.
- If you are not given a written response within 30 days, contact Legal Aid.
Personal Injury Suit
You may have claims if your child has been lead poisoned. Lawsuits based on lead poisoning may be difficult to prove. Call your local bar association to consult with an attorney who handles personal injury claims.
Legal Aid’s Brief Advice Clinics
Want to talk in-person with an attorney? In addition to in-person and phone intake, Legal Aid offers Brief Advice Clinics in neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio. At the Clinics you can talk in-person with an attorney and ask questions about your legal problem.
Text 216-242-1544 with the message LAS CLINIC for date and location of next clinic or visit www.lasclev.org for a complete schedule.
Contact the Bar Association
Contact your local bar association for a referral to a private attorney.
- Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association: 216-696-3532
- Lorain County Bar Association: 440-323-8416
- Lake County, Ohio Bar Association: 440-350-5800
- Geauga County Bar Association: 440-286-7160
- Ashtabula County Bar Association: 440-415-4503
Lead Poisoning – Know Your Rights!
Click here for a helpful info card which briefly highlights your rights related to Lead Poisoning.
First steps to prevention
- The most common sources of lead are peeling paint and bare soil.
- Contact your landlord in writing to request a repair of these conditions.
Test your Children
- Ask your pediatrician to test your child for lead poisoning.
- If your child’s blood lead level is above 5 μg/dl there is cause for concern.
- If it is above 10 μg/dl the Department of Health should inspect your home.
- If your child is falling behind in school, ask the school in writing to evaluate them for special education and mention their lead
poisoning. Contact Legal Aid if you do not receive a response within 30 days.
- If your landlord refuses to repair lead hazards, contact Legal Aid.
Text FAQ LEAD to 216.242.1544 for a link to more information, including resources for homeowners.
How will the public housing authority’s smoking bans affect me?
By July 30, 2018, public housing providers will all be required to implement smoke-free policies in residential buildings. The smoke-free policies prohibit residents from smoking in their units or outside of designated smoking areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) supports these bans in the interest of residents’ health and minimizing repair costs.
Public housing authorities (PHAs) in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties have begun to implement smoking bans based on HUD’s proposed “Smoke-Free Public Housing” rule from November 2015. Some PHAs may implement their smoke-free policies sooner than the July 30, 2018 requirement.
The smoking bans include all lit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Smoking will be prohibited in all public housing residential units, common areas, offices and the first 25 feet from the outside of the building. Some housing providers may provide a Designated Smoking Area (DSA). However, this is not required and the housing providers may choose to make the entire property smoke-free. All leases must include the smoking policy by July 30, 2018.
If a resident has a disability, a reasonable accommodation may be made to make it easier for the resident to access the area where smoking is allowed (i.e., the DSA or 25 feet from the building). However, the reasonable accommodation cannot allow a resident to smoke in the residential unit.
The goal of the smoke-free policy is to provide residents and staff with a healthier and safer environment. PHAs are encouraged to partner with their local and state health departments and tobacco control organizations to help residents who want to quit.
Each PHA has discretion on how to enforce its smoke-free policy. HUD recommends gradually increasing the consequences for violations, starting with verbal warnings, then a written warning, followed by a final notice. After repeated violations, enforcement of smoke-free policies could result in evictions for tenants that do not adhere to the policy or continue to smoke in their unit.
PHAs should be providing notice to all tenants in advance of this change to policy and to lease agreements. Residents should speak with their property manager about any questions or concerns in advance.
This article was written by Abigail Staudt and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
 Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)
What can be done about illegal dumping and other environmental problems?
Illegal dumping of waste is one example of an environmental violation. Other violations may include burning garbage, foul smelling drinking water, and the demolition of buildings containing asbestos. Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing laws that protect Ohio’s environment from pollution and maintain healthy air, water, and surroundings. Other problems that relate to maintaining a healthy environment may be the responsibility of other agencies. For example, mold and lead contamination is managed by the health department. To learn about Ohio’s EPA, visit http://www.epa.state.oh.us.
When residents are concerned about a problem such as illegal dumping or another environmental hazard, they can file a complaint with the Ohio EPA district office. The district office helps citizens report alleged violations and then investigates the complaint. Complaints can be filed by calling a hotline (Northeast District 1-800-686-6330) or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints may be made anonymously. Alternatively, a person can make a verified complaint to the EPA which requires a written, sworn statement as to the facts about the violation and identification of the specific law, rule, or order that is being violated.
A person filing a complaint should provide as much detail as possible about the situation. Following the complaint, the EPA will investigate or direct the complaint to another appropriate agency. Depending on the results of the investigation, enforcement action may follow or the matter may be referred to the Attorney General to pursue legal action.
Groups of neighbors or residents who have common concerns about current environmental violations in their community may contact Legal Aid to find out if additional help is available on their issue. When calling Legal Aid, ask to speak with a member of the Community Engagement Group.
This article was written by Cinnamon Williams and Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What must owners tell tenants/buyers about lead paint?
A landlord must to give a tenant any information the landlord has about the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home, but, the landlord is not required to investigate whether there is lead present, unless that lead presents a hazard to the tenant.
Federal law requires landlords, before signing a lease for a house or apartment built before 1978, to give the tenant:
- An EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards, Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home (PDF);
- Any information the landlord has about the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.; and
- An attachment to the contract, or language inserted in the contract, that includes a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirms that the landlord has complied with all notification requirements.
Ohio law requires a landlord to address lead hazards and comply with lead abatement orders when they are issued, as part of their duty to maintain the property in good repair. They also must use lead-safe practices when making repairs or remodeling at properties where tenants live.
Local ordinances in some cities also address lead. For example, a Cleveland city ordinance requires that landlords pay for private inspections and get lead-safe certificates for their occupied rental units and give additional disclosures to tenants about whether a home has an identified lead hazard. The ordinance declares lead hazards a public nuisance and the Commissioner of Health may order the landlord to abate, or clean up, the nuisance.
If a home has a lead hazard, tenants should seek legal assistance. A tenant may sue a landlord if the landlord doesn’t provide the required information.
What impact could smoking bans have on your housing?
Housing providers have started banning smoking in residential buildings. The bans prohibit residents smoking in their units or outside of designated smoking areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development supports these bans in the interest of residents’ health and minimizing repair costs. 1
Public housing authorities (PHAs) in the five counties served by the Legal Aid Society may soon implement a smoking ban given HUD’s proposed “Smoke Free Public Housing” rule from November 2015. 2 Even in regions with relatively low smoking rates, such as Cuyahoga, 3 many citizens may be exposed to the health risks associated with smoking if they live or work in a smoking building.
If you live in a building considering a smoking ban, you may have the opportunity to voice your opinions about the ban. Look for signs or notices of a residents’ meeting within your building regarding a smoking ban. A residents’ meeting may be your best opportunity to speak directly to the PHA about the ban.
Another option for Cleveland residents to express their opinion is to contact the Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO). CTO advocates for affordable and fair rental accommodations. 4 Tenants’ groups will be interested in working with PHAs to draft the ban because violations by tenants or tenants’ guests may result in a lease violation or even eviction. If you would like to speak with someone at CTO regarding a smoking ban, call (216) 432-0617.
Finally, if your building creates a smoking ban, be aware of your responsibilities. You may be asked to sign a lease addendum regarding the policy during a recertification meeting. 5 Read all documents carefully and ask your property manager any questions you have during that meeting. You may also request copies of the paperwork to review later or to discuss with a tenant advocate. Clarify when the new policy takes effect, and what is expected of tenants. You should also know the potential penalties for violating the ban so you can be sure to follow the new rules once effective.
1 Change Is In The Air: An Action Guide for Establishing Smoke-Free Public Housing and Multifamily Properties, Department of Housing and Urban Development, p. 10-17 (2014).
2 Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)
3 Ellen Jan Kleinerman, “Cuyahoga County smoking rate is lowest in Ohio.” The Plain Dealer,
September 15, 2010. Electronic access here.
4 “Mission & Values”, www.clevelandtenants.org (2015).
5 Change Is In The Air, p. 63
By Abigail Pink
What do I need to know about lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop. Visit www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland.
Who is at risk?
Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there. (For a list of high risk zip codes, click here.)
Where is this problem?
Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).
What are the signs?
Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.
When do I need to address this?
Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.
What can you do if you’re concerned?
In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high, try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.
My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
• Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
• Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
• Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
• Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
• Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.
Visit the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition website at www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland. You can also visit the Lead Safe Resource Center at 4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44103 or call the Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323. For additional information and resources, visit https://lasclev.org/leadpoisonresources.
By Lauren Roberts
What Resources are there for Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning in children is a serious condition with long term negative consequences. The following resources may help families in northeast Ohio trying to cope with lead poisoning:
For medical advice for a child with an elevated blood level, contact:
- Your child’s pediatrician
- MetroHealth Pediatric Lead Clinic
Referral by pediatrician or call (216) 778-2222
For education resources and support, contact:
- Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition (http://leadsafecle.org or (833) 601-5323)
- Lead Safe Resource Center (4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44103)
- Help Me Grow (http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/)
- For a list of Help Me Grow providers in your area, click here.
For information on lead testing of your home, contact:
If you live in the city of Cleveland:
- Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Lead Safe Hotline: (833) 601-5323
- Click here for more information about the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition.
- City of Cleveland Lead Safe Living: Click here for more information.
- (216) 263-LEAD (5323)
- City of Cleveland’s Lead Hazard Control Program: Click here for more information.
- (216) 664-2045
If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:
- Cuyahoga County Board of Health: Click here for more information.
- (216) 201-2000
If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:
- Ohio Healthy Homes 1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)
If you live in Lake County:
- Lake County General Health District: Click here for more information.
- (440) 350-2554
For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, contact the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, contact the City’s Lead Hazard Control Program at (216) 664-2045
Click here for more information
- If you live anywhere else in Cuyahoga County, contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Health at (216) 201-2000
Click here for more information
- If you live in Lorain County, contact Lorain County public Health at (440) 892-7873. Click here for more information.
- If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga or Lake Counties, contact Ohio Department of Health at (614) 728-3105 or click here for more information.