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Ludeman plans to re-introduce Toledo lead legislation

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    Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman listens to debate during a council meeting at One Government Center in downtown Toledo. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

    The Blade/Katie Rausch
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    A lead hazard sign is posted on a home on Putnam Street in Toledo. Toledo City Council has voted 10-1 to approve an amendment to the city’s “lead-safe” rental property law that extends compliance deadlines, but keeps a controversial dust-wipe requirement for home inspections.

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Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman said he plans to re-introduce his version of a lead-safe ordinance that would decrease dust wipe requirements for rental inspections, citing widespread non-compliance of the existing lead-safe law.

“Given the state of the implementation of the lead ordinance that is in effect, I think it's proven to be ineffective,” he said Wednesday, calling the law “too cumbersome.”

It’s the latest development as the first lead-safe compliance deadline of June 30 approaches. Last week featured a contentious city council committee meeting where renters expressed fear of losing their homes and a request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit questioning the law’s validity. 

Mr. Ludeman’s comments follow his announcement at Tuesday’s council meeting that he’d asked council’s clerk to “dig up” his version of the legislation.

VIDEO: Lauren Lindstrom on proposed change to lead law

Of the 12,500 properties that are required to be registered by June 30, fewer than 1,200 had done so as of last week, according to figures from the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, the entity charged with enforcing the law.

Under his plan, Mr. Ludeman said, properties would get an initial visual inspection for lead hazards such as peeling and chipping paint. Properties that fail a visual inspection would be ordered to undergo certain remedies, such as cleaning and painting, and then would have to pass a dust wipe test in order to be certified. 

The possibility of changing the lead law reignites a two-year debate on how the city should deal with residential lead hazards and the health threat they pose to children. Council members in 2016 debated several versions of the ordinance that varied in the number of units and the inclusion of dust wipe tests.

What ultimately passed required rental properties with up to four units built before 1978 and home day care centers to be inspected for lead hazards. Those checks, done by independent inspectors, include dust wipes that test for lead concentrations on floors and windows. Council last year amended the law to stagger the deadlines, with the first pending at the end of this month.

The key element in Mr. Ludeman’s proposal removed the required dust wipe test from initial inspections. 

“The real estate investors supported my version,” said Mr. Ludeman, a real estate agent. Mr. Ludeman said the makeup of council is different and there is more information available than when it first passed. 

“I think it's worth the discussion to see where the votes might lie,” he said. “I haven't polled anyone on council except myself.”

Councilman Peter Ujvagi, a longtime supporter of the lead ordinance and dust wipe inclusion, said he was opposed to re-opening it to amendment. 

“We should not after two years re-open the legislation on the core principles such as the issue of the dust wipes,” he said. “I am concerned that people are forgetting over two years how much work [and] how much adjustment was made to make the legislation work.”

He said more attention should be paid to the hardship extensions offered through the Department of Neighborhoods and the health department that allow more time for landlords with many properties, who are low-income, or have homes in historic districts. 

Councilman Larry Sykes, whose version of the legislation contained the dust wipe requirement and was similar to what became law, said on Wednesday he had no comment on Mr. Ludeman’s request.

Mr. Ludeman said he planned to re-introduce the legislation at Tuesday’s agenda review session but wouldn’t bring anything to a vote until after a decision on a request for a preliminary injunction by plaintiffs suing the city and health department board over the law. 

The Property Investors Network and a Toledo landlord in November filed suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, calling the law unconstitutional. An attorney for the parties last month sought a preliminary injunction that would halt the implementation of enforcement.

Judge Linda Jennings set a hearing on the injunction request for June 15.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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