Investors who purchase foreclosed or poorly maintained homes have a duty to abide by Chicago’s building codes and fix dangerous conditions, like lead paint. More than 530,000 children test positive for lead in their blood each year. Lead poisoning causes brain damage and developmental delays that will last a lifetime. Many lead exposure cases are a result of families living in homes that landlords have neglected to make safe for human habitation.
Preying on the Poor
There has been a housing crisis in the United States. As homes are foreclosed on, investors purchase them from mortgage lenders and banks. These homes are often old and in poor condition. Some investors disregard city building codes, do not register these properties or bring the homes up to code before renting them to tenants. Many of these properties could have lead paint that needs to be fixed before they are considered habitable. This problem is not limited to Chicago as there are tens of thousands of homes throughout the Chicago suburbs and the United States that could be rented out with dangerous lead conditions.
In some cases, a landlord will enter in a rent-to-own agreement with a tenant who would otherwise be unable to obtain a mortgage to purchase a home. The landlord has the tenant sign an agreement that transfers the responsibility of maintaining the home to the tenant. The tenant may also be required to sign an agreement that will prevent him or her from suing the landlord if he, she or family becomes ill because of the conditions of the home. This is illegal.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has begun to investigate this danger to families. Tenants and their families are fighting back and suing sellers and landlords after learning their children have lead poisoning.
Lead Poisoning in Children
Children who are exposed to lead at a young age are often doomed to a lifetime of disability. They are most susceptible to being poisoned by lead before they reach the age of two. Young children are more likely to put their hands in their mouths that could be contaminated with lead from toys or walls that are covered with lead paint.
During the first few years of life, a child’s brain is rapidly developing and more vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead. Exposure over the long term can cause permanent damage to a child’s developing brain.