Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (June 21, 2001) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has executed a settlement agreement that will result in lead hazard reduction treatments being performed on a minimum of 480 rental properties in Baltimore City over the next two years.

The settlement is with 87 separate corporate and partnership entities, of which Stanley Rochkind, of Baltimore, has a controlling interest, including S&S Partnership and others overseen by Dear Management. Rochkind-controlled entities together own more than 700 occupied pre-1950 rental properties, making them one of the largest landlords in Baltimore City.

The comprehensive settlement agreement resolves a May 4 Proposed Decision issued by Administrative Law Judge Stephen Nichols in an enforcement action brought by MDE against S&S Partnership, assessing the statutory maximum penalty of $100,000 for failure to bring a Baltimore City rental property owned by S&S Partnership into compliance with state lead hazard reduction standards.

As part of settlement agreement, the owners have also agreed to pay a penalty of $90,000, of which $40,000 will be held in an escrow account and may be reimbursed in whole or in part if the owners comply with the requirements to perform the 480 full risk reduction treatments.

"Two weeks ago, we had 755 properties under voluntary consent order for compliance; with this global settlement, we will now have more than 1,250 properties that will be brought into compliance," said MDE Secretary Jane T. Nishida. "These enforcement settlements are the direct result of the Governor’s lead initiative and emphasize our message to landlords not to ignore the hazards of lead paint poisoning and the role they play in reducing that risk. MDE is continuing to focus its resources to vigorously enforce lead laws."

State law requires landlords to bring pre-1950 rental units into compliance with lead hazard risk reduction standards whenever there is tenant turnover, upon receipt of notice that a property has chipping, peeling, flaking paint or a child with an elevated blood lead level has lived in the dwelling unit.

As of February 24, property owners also have to insure that 50 percent of their rental units have been brought into compliance with the risk reduction standards regardless of whether there was a turnover or other triggering event.

In the S&S Partnership case, the judge assessed the maximum penalty after hearing evidence that showed that S&S failed to have a rental property in the 3800 block of Belle Avenue properly inspected for lead risks and failed to file a lead risk reduction certificate with MDE.

Nationally, almost one million pre-school age children have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood which may result in poor school performance, inability to read, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or even mental retardation. In 1998, approximately 5,840 Maryland children were reported to have exposure levels high enough to inflict irreversible harm.