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January 30, 2006 7:30 AM   Subscribe

De-leaded Apartments in Boston: What's the Scoop?

We're moving to Boston at the end of February. This is our first apartment search since we've become parents and now we have the added hassle of finding an apartment that has been de-leaded. It was never a concern before because neither of us eat paint chips or chew on windowsills, but we have to look out for our little guy now.

We'd like to find a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment in Jamaica Plain or Brookline, preferrably in an old 2- or 3-family house. Judging by the what we're seeing on Craigslist, the lead-free pickings may be slim.

So here are my questions:

1) Any tips for finding de-leaded apts in Boston?

2) Is there a law requiring landlords to lease only "certified" de-leaded apts to families with infants?

3) Are we gonna have to settle for an ugly charmless apartment in a new building?

4) Are there de-leaded apartments that not certified but that are are nonetheless lead-free enough for us to occupy without hurting my kid's chances at someday getting into Harvard?
posted by mds35 to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I believe that a landlord is obliged to de-lead an apartment if there's a small child living there (so if it's not already de-leaded, they have to fix it). So what I would do is not mention the baby til you have the lease and them have the apartment deleaded before you move in.

According to this page, they cannot refuse to rent a leaded apartment to a family with a child under 6, but they must eliminate the lead problem if such a family moves in. Now of course they *will* refuse to rent to you, because of the child, so like I said, don't mention the kid til you have the lease.
posted by duck at 7:54 AM on January 30, 2006

Thanks for the link, duck, but I'd just as soon find one that has already been de-leaded. I'd rather not play games with our future landlord and I'd really really prefer not to live in an apartment while it's being de-leaded. Any tips on finding such a place?
posted by mds35 at 8:03 AM on January 30, 2006

How's the rental market in Boston? You could make an offer to lease contingent on them deleading the apartment before you move in. One month is more than enough time to perform this service. As a bonus you'd get a freshly painted apartment.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on January 30, 2006

I've lived in a few places in Boston most recently- JP. From what I remember most of the places have been deleaded. Most of the agreements we signed came with statements that the apartments had been deleaded- the catch, we never used Craig's list and always went through a realtor. There are a few realtors in JP (I'm blanking on their names right now, but they're right on Centre Street near the center of town) who I know are really good about this. I've had 2 co-workers buy houses in the area for their families so I have to believe most of what they show are safe. One in particular is right near the 10 Tables restaurant and Pluto.
posted by rodz at 10:26 AM on January 30, 2006

Lead is a problem in housing built from the mid-70s and before. A coat of paint over lead paint in good shape will provide some protection. Window frames are a big problem; raising and lowering the lead-painted window releases a very fine leaded dust that is easily inhaled. Replacement windows resolve this problem. Looking at housing built after 1980 will avoid the problem. Due to leaded gas, there's still a lot of lead in soil which kids kick up into inhalable dust, so blood testing is not a bad idea.
posted by theora55 at 11:43 AM on January 30, 2006

My understanding is that lead has become much less of an issue in Massachusetts now that "encapsulating" is accepted as a deleading treatment. Essentially that means you can apply special paint over the old lead paint. Previously deleading had required either guys in hazmat suits scraping off the old paint or completely covering surfaces with drywall. Both options were prohibitively expensive for landlords. The law, as duck said, requires that any rental be deleaded if there are children, so landlords would just find conventient ways to not rent to families with children or even couples who might eventually have children. The newer, laxer, encapsulation standard was adopted about 10 years ago as a response.

When deleading was expensive and rents were low landlords needed to advertise their deleaded apartments to recoup the cost. Now that it's relatively cheap and easy to delead and rents are astronomical there is little or no incentive to list apartments as certified deleaded.

What that means for you is that many of the apartments you're seeing listed are deleaded, at least to the newer standard, just nobody thought to mention it. You also no longer see listings which mention that they won't rent to families with children, which has always been illegal but were blatant and common anyway.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:11 PM on January 30, 2006

What that means for you is that many of the apartments you're seeing listed are deleaded, at least to the newer standard, just nobody thought to mention it.

My experience exactly, at least in Somerville and Cambridge.

The standard Massachusetts lease form has a section in which the landlord has to explicitly tell you about any lead paint that may be in the place (and, IIRC, he has to tell you as well as put it in the lease). Any landlord that uses the lease will know all there is to know about lead on the walls. The rental market is tight enough that there isn't much incentive to be dishonest -- someone without kids will come along soon enough, so why not eliminate some future hassles own up?

If the landlord doesn't use the standard lease you probably don't want to rent from him.

My impression from walks around various neighborhoods is that the average Brookline apartment has been remodeled far more recently than the average JP place, so finding a lead-free place should be easier there. It would also likely have a higher rent.
posted by nflorin at 1:38 PM on January 30, 2006

I would say that any apartment that has been repainted since 1980 (not necessarily a sure thing in JP) should be lead-free enough for you not to need to worry about it. The windows are an issue, so if you are particularly concerned, look for a place with replacement windows.

That said, there are other ways for lead to get into your kiddo, so do get the recommended tests (I think at ages 2 and 4).
posted by Rock Steady at 3:31 PM on January 30, 2006

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