Rutland Superior Court issued a judgment last week in a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General’s Office against Rutland rental property owner John Ruggiero and his companies for failing to comply with Vermont’s lead in rental housing laws and consumer protection laws. The Attorney General’s Office sued Mr. Ruggiero earlier this month after the Vermont Department of Health received complaints of two children residing in Mr. Ruggiero’s properties with elevated blood lead levels. The Consent Judgment orders Mr. Ruggiero and any rental company he manages to immediately bring nine rental properties into compliance and refrain from renting any non-compliant vacant rental unit until the unit becomes compliant with Vermont’s lead law. Mr. Ruggiero owns over 30 rental properties in Rutland, many of which had deteriorated paint conditions, thus exposing children to potential lead hazards.
“Vermont’s lead law is intended to protect all Vermonters, especially children, from the harmful effects of lead poisoning,” said Attorney General Donovan. “My office will continue to raise awareness about the importance of lead law compliance.”
“Lead is toxic, especially to children,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “There is no safe level of lead in the body. It can slow down a child’s growth, impair their development and learning, and cause behavior problems. Since dust from lead-based paint is the number one cause of lead poisoning, landlords can prevent lead poisoning when they comply with Vermont and federal lead-based paint regulations – effectively clean-up lead dust, and repair chipping or peeling paint using lead-safe work practices.”
Vermont’s lead law requires owners of residential rental properties built before 1978 to submit annual compliance statements showing that Essential Maintenance Practices (known as EMPs) have been performed. EMPs are maintenance activities that help prevent lead poisoning in children. In addition to submitting annual compliance statements to the Department of Health, property owners are also required to tell residents about any known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards. This includes providing residents with the Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home booklet, information about how to report deteriorated paint, and the rental unit’s EMP compliance statements.
The Department of Health is responsible for overseeing compliance of Vermont’s lead law. EMP compliance statements are available online at the Department of Health’s website. Information and resources about Vermont’s lead law for property owners are also available on the Department’s website: www.healthvermont.gov/lead-law.