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City files 100 affidavits to hold property owners accountable for not getting lead paint out of homes

By Jessi Schultz

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    CLEVELAND (WEWS) — The battle to break free from the risks of lead paint is still raging in Cleveland.

But city leaders took another step in holding property owners accountable by filing 100 affidavits of fact on lead nuisance properties that still need to comply to get the lead out.

It’s been four years since the Lead Safe Cleveland initiative was created, and News 5 has followed through ever since, keeping track of the process and bringing you the stories of those whose lives have been impacted by lead poisoning.

The federal government outlawed lead paint in 1978, but 80% of Cleveland’s housing stock was built before then, and many of those homes are rentals. In 2019, Cleveland City Council passed a law requiring all landlords and property owners to have their homes deemed lead-safe by March of this year, but that didn’t happen.

As of the end of last year, just over 20,000 units had passed, meaning 4 out of 5 rentals still needed to comply.

City leaders hope these affidavits put them on notice.

There are 400 placarded properties with known lead paint hazards that the owner has seemingly ignored, and they are homes that children and pregnant mothers should not be living in.

Etoi Shaquila Young is the lead program manager at the Cleveland Health Department.

“We have so many of these homes that still need the repairs,” she said.

But one of the main problems the health department and city face in this ongoing battle is people buying or renting these properties not knowing about the risk.

“It’s just a lot of families only know because their child ended up testing for lead when they take them into an appointment or they just see that they’re not feeling well. It’s not something where they’re being proactive, looking at things throughout the home or even being notified that these things are occurring in the property,” she said.

The lack of awareness for tenants and lack of accountability for property owners is what lead Rebecca Maurer, Ward 12 Councilwoman, to run for office.

She lives in Slavic Village and realized a home right across the street from her was on the list of lead paint nuisance properties.

“I was so heartbroken by it because I knew a mom who lived there, and she had two twin 1-year-old boys, and I found out before she did that that property had lead,” she recounts. “That moment of realizing that I found out before that mom did about the lead in her home was what put the fire in my belly. I felt like she deserved better. I felt like we all deserved better as a city, and I feel like these affidavits are absolutely a step in the right direction.”

She said since she first alerted the tenants of the house, the lead paint still needs to be fixed, yet new people continue to come in.

“That house has sold twice since that original lead-hazard control order,” she said. “I have no way of knowing, and no one has any way of knowing that those buyers were aware of the lead hazard when they bought it.

The affidavits mean that legally, any potential buyers will be warned about the dangers, and it will stay on public property record until it has been fixed.

“Preventing the constant transfer of property without notification, this is going to be attached to the deed,” adds Young.

There are 300 more properties that will be receiving affidavits of fact soon.

“It’s an important step to say, ‘We will use every tool in the toolbox,’ and this has been a tool for a while; frankly, it wasn’t being used. So, this first east of filing tells me we are trying to move in the right direction,” said Maurer.

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