Baby Zizzle Disapproves of Living with Lead!
May 12, 2010 10:29 AM   Subscribe

[Boston filter] In a follow up to this question asked by my charming husband about renting in Salem, I'd like to further ask, how does one find a deleaded apartment either in Salem or the greater Boston area?

Baby Zizzle is still a baby and therefore under six. Landlords don't seem to want to delead, despite the lead law that says clearly they have to, and despite the anti-discrimination housing law that says they can't discriminate against families. But still it happens and will happen and it's what we're working with.

We don't really want to have a fight on our hands at the onset of renting a new place. So -- uh --- where are all the deleaded 2 bedroom apartments? Most of the ones I can find are well, well, well out of our price range.

Has anyone lived in any of the larger complexes in the Salem area that have apartments in our price range that are deleaded but also have questionable reviews on the property management personnel and general upkeep?

And if it comes to it, what type of fight will we have on our hands if we can't find a landlord with a deleaded apartment and have to take a leaded or lead-unknown apartment? How would we go about forcing a landlord to come into lead law compliance if we have to? Do we just call the public health lead folk, or are we talking we need to lawyer up ourselves to get it done?
posted by zizzle to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure how thorough this is, but the Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program maintains a database of deleaded homes and apartments in the state - Before battling a landlord, you can start here at least.

Good luck - this subject generally freaks me out, especially after a prick-test false positive for my 3-year-old last year, that had me ready to jump off a bridge over a long weekend until the larger blood sample came back fine.
posted by jalexei at 10:47 AM on May 12, 2010

Since houses built after 1978 are supposed to be lead-paint-free, if you want to be absolutely sure, you can just limit your search to buildings built after that date. Zillow tends to have reliable information on when buildings were built.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:50 AM on May 12, 2010

I was just coming in here to recommend the Massachusetts CLPPP. Call them at 1-800-532-9571 - at least as a first step. Good luck!
posted by pants at 11:08 AM on May 12, 2010

it is really hard to prove that a landlord is discriminating, first of all. If you don't have a signed lease, I don't believe you can force a landlord to do anything. But call the offices mentioned above. The housing stock in Mass is old, that's a reality.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 12:24 PM on May 12, 2010

If you have money to burn and really don't want a hassle, use an apartment broker. They will do the work of finding de-leaded places for you to view.
posted by Marit at 1:33 PM on May 12, 2010

I wouldn't want to rent something and then have the landlord de-lead it, for the reason that the de-leading process creates a lot of lead dust. So I'd look for places that have been de-leaded for some time (maybe through the public-health agency listed by others), and then also have it tested for lead yourself. De-leading can be worse than just keeping a place freshly painted and clean, because of the way it disturbs the underlayers of paint and gets dust into cracks in the floorboards, etc.

You can also look for places where the wood trim on the windows and doors has only been stained, not painted, as the painted tracks of windows and doors is where leaded paint is going to be pulverized and create the dust and small chips that can be inhaled/ingested by small children.
posted by palliser at 1:57 PM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: Marit, that's part of the problem. We have absolutely no room in our budget and can't afford a broker. If we could afford to pay a broker's fee, then we could afford to pay the $200/month more in rent that we'd need to rent a known deleaded apartment. It's not that deleaded apartments out there, it's that they're not out there in our price range, which seems to be about $150/month more than we can afford.

Palliser, the CLPPP debunks most of what you've said in their pamphlet on the matter, and this is about my child's health (and also my health as lead isn't exactly good for adults, either), so I'm not all that willing to compromise on this.
posted by zizzle at 2:49 PM on May 12, 2010

Actually, the dangers of opening/closing windows painted with lead paint are specifically mentioned in several places in the pamphlet, so I think my suggestion of looking for a place with stained, rather than painted, windows, is supported by the pamphlet. It also says that proper maintenance and cleaning reduces the risk of lead poisoning.

Also, what it says about de-leading is that the risks "can" be controlled by a licensed de-leader, not that properly controlled comparisons have shown a benefit from de-leading. But I admit my opinion is influenced by a friend's personal experience of de-leading their 100-year-old house, with a certified, licensed de-leader, and then having their child's lead levels shoot up afterward. After further extensive testing, they finally figured out that the process had disturbed lead dust, which then lodged in miniscule cracks in the hardwood floors. They had to have all their floors sanded down and refinished. Meanwhile, child and Mom were living for months at the grandparents' house, while Dad oversaw the work.

I'm not suggesting that you compromise on your baby's health -- quite the opposite, that taking a place that might have lead and then trying to get the landlord to de-lead it could be unwise, in terms of your baby's health, though it might seem like a good solution to the problem that the already-de-leaded places are out of budget.
posted by palliser at 7:23 PM on May 12, 2010

I don't know all the details about how you do it, but I have a friend whose parents teach a certified de-leading course for $200 out in Webster. Apparently it isn't hard. You might be able to work a deal with a landlord where you delead it and he charges you his original price (or maybe gives you a small break) and everyone wins. You can Mefi mail me if you want me to put you in contact with them.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 8:21 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

nice, kiltedwonder!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2010

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