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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three bills seeking to prevent lead paint poisoning in Rhode Island homes are on their way to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk after winning the general assembly’s approval.
The bills are designed to hold landlords accountable for having dangerous substances in their properties, according to R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha, who’s been pushing for that change. Landlords who don’t comply with lead safety laws could face potentially steep fines.
The first bill establishes a statewide rental registry where landlords must submit information to the R.I. Department of Health. Those with buildings built after 1978 would have to file a lead conformance certificate, which is already required by law.
The second bill allows tenants to pay their rent into an escrow account when there are unaddressed lead hazards in their home. Landlords would not have to access the rent until the issue is addressed.
The third bill allows families affected by lead poisoning to be financially compensated.
Earlier this month, Neronha filed a lawsuit against a large-scale landlord, alleging that several children suffered from lead poisoning at his properties.
Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development in children, according to the Health Department.
Christian Velazquez said his two young children have suffered from lead poisoning in their home.
“When they tell you your kids are sick or they have lead poisoning, that’s terrifying,” Velazquez said. “You could never consider that for your children.”
Velazquez and other former and current tenants recently spoke out about the conditions of their apartments. The lawsuit against his former landlord claims at least 11 children were found with detectable levels of lead in their system and five were poisoned.
“Families, children that already have a lot of obstacles to get … the last thing they need is lead exposure on top of all the other economic challenges they face,” Neronha said.
Velazquez said he doesn’t want any other family to go through what he has.
“They are supposed to start school in September,” he said. “They have to be hand-fed still, all this due to lead poisoning.”
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