Poverty & Safety Net
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What it takes to become lead-safe certified

Natasha Takyi-Micah
Treuhaft Fellow for Health Planning
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June 13, 2022
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Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance in 2019 requiring residential rental units built before 1978 to obtain a lead-safe certification to ensure that families, especially children, are able to live in safe environments. Landlords and property managers can engage in either one of the two inspections: a Lead Clearance Examination or a Lead Risk Assessment Inspection. A quarterly schedule shows when rental units need to be lead-safe between March 2021 and March 2023 based on zip codes.

 Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance in 2019 requiring residential rental units built before 1978 to obtain a lead-safe certification to ensure that families, especially children, are able to live in safe environments.

The landlords or property managers must work with contractors who specialize in lead-safe certification. In order to understand the lead inspection process, Zak Burkons, owner of PbFreeOhio a group from the CCS Policy Committee of the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition to view one of his lead inspections.

Steps to become lead-safe certified

  1. A cleaning technician cleans sections of the property that could be lead hazardous. The cleaning technician completes this an hour before Burkons arrives to view the property.
  2. Burkons performs a visual test where he examines parts of the home that may have high levels of lead (e.g. windows, frames and porches).
  3. Another colleague conducts dust wipes tests. Those wipes are sent to an RRP (renovate, repair, paint) contractor.
  4. After the test, there will be a report detailing which parts of the property need to be remediated in order to make it lead-safe certified.
  5. Another inspection test is performed after the property manager or landlord addressed the changes required.
  6. If the property passes, then the property is lead-safe certified and the landlord or property manager will receive a certification. The certification will last for two years for those who specifically pass the dust wipes exams. There is another inspection called the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) test for homes built at a later date. That certificate lasts for 20 years.
 If the property passes, then the property is lead-safe certified and the landlord or property manager will receive a certification.

Zak Burkons explaining the window frame could possibly contain lead.

The balcony of the property where we view the lead inspection.

Fifteen-twenty percent of properties fail the first inspection

Throughout the inspection, we noticed that the rental property would fail the lead-safe test because of deteriorating window frames, broken windows and a poorly conditioned balcony. According to Burkons, 15-20 percent of properties initially fail lead tests. Even though properties have failed in the past, Burkons and his team completed over 6,500 inspections in which properties became lead safe certified since he obtained his license on July 23, 2021.

 15-20 percent of properties initially fail lead tests.

Summer is upon us and children will be on school break. This means that they will be at home more often and more likely to be exposed to lead if housing conditions are unsafe. Due to this potential danger, parents should learn about lead prevention and encourage their landlords/property managers to get their properties tested. To learn more about lead in Cleveland homes, visit the Lead Safe Resource Center or call their hotline at 833.601.5323. When all of our community is more informed, we can ensure children are at less risk of becoming lead poisoned.

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