Public Health & Recreation

Providence Landlords Busted for Lead Poisoning Violations

Enforcement action has been taken against two Providence landlords who own and operate a property built in 1900 that has had multiple cases of lead poisoning in children.

After a third child recently tested positive for elevated blood levels of lead, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) conducted an inspection of the property that revealed several unresolved lead hazards, including in bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and in the soil surrounding the property.

RIDOH had issued two notices of violations to the defendants, who failed to resolve the conditions, according to the attorney general’s office.

Attorney General Peter Neronha announced Feb. 3 that his office has taken action against Mark O’Day and David Buda.

“Every child in every home in Rhode Island deserves to be safe from lead paint poisoning,” he said. “While most are, the fact remains that far, far too many are not. Remedying this major public health issue can very often be accomplished quickly and inexpensively by landlords. The failure of some to do so indicates one thing: they value their bottom-line rent receipts over the health of children.”

Because of the health risks associated with lead exposure, particularly to young children and pregnant women, state regulations require non-exempt owners of housing built before 1978 to ensure lead hazards are reduced to a level that is safe for tenants.

The state’s complaint asks the defendants to correct all outstanding lead violations through remediation performed by a licensed lead hazard contractor; ensure that any tenants at the property are provided with, or compensated for, adequate housing accommodations if they are unable to remain in their homes due to the remediation; and repair any other housing code violations at the property.

Additionally, O’Day and Buda could be subject to penalties of up to $5,000 a day that the lead hazard violations have existed at their property.

The complaint was filed in Providence Superior Court.

In a separate case, the attorney general’s office has asked for a preliminary injunction compelling defendants Regent Place LLC and Robert Riccardi to immediately remediate the lead hazards at their rental property in East Providence.

In November 2021, Neronha sued the defendants for long-standing lead violations following the childhood lead poisoning of a tenant. A re-inspection by RIDOH in late December confirmed that the lead hazards were still present.

To date, the landlord has failed to act, according to the attorney general’s office.

Neronha has requested that the court require the defendants to hire a lead hazard contractor within three days; correct any and all outstanding lead violations at the property within 14 days; immediately ensure that any tenants at the property are provided with, or compensated for, adequate housing accommodations during any period that they are unable to remain in their home due to remediation; and place all rental income collected from tenants at the lead-contaminated property in an escrow account to be used for required lead abatement work.

The preliminary injunction motion was filed in Providence Superior Court.

The attorney general and RIDOH have issued Guidance for Local Code Enforcement on Lead Hazard Violations to cities and towns to support local housing code enforcement officers in the role they can play in preventing childhood lead poisoning.

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