County Executive McMahon Issues Order Aimed at Holding Landlords More Accountable for Lead Abatement

May 16, 2019

County Executive Ryan McMahon stands in front of 305 W. Pleasant Ave in Syracuse, a home that received lead paint abatement through the county's program. With him, from left, are Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll, County Legislator Peggy Chase, and Social Services Commissioner Sarah Merrick.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Onondaga County is getting more aggressive in trying to tackle the stubborn lead paint problem in the area’s older housing stock.  County Executive Ryan McMahon issued an order Thursday that holds landlords more accountable for lead abatement on their properties in order to prevent lead poisoning in children.

He says they’re expanding the reach of the Spiegel Act, which allows the county to freeze public assistance payments to landlords if lead is detected.

"In multi-families properties, if we detect lead in one unit, we will hold payments for any other unit in that property until the landlord complies."

The challenge is testing for…and reporting the lead, which is not required, even if a tenant is on public assistance.  Only federal HUD assistance requires an inspection.  Landlords or the tenant would have to take the step of calling the county for a test, which is what officials hope will happen.  If it's positive and they’re eligible, an abatement program will get underway.  If the county is helping to re-locate a tenant, social services commissioner Sarah Merrick says they try to educate clients about making the best choice.

Landlord and resident Amber Mathews says her tenant's income actually met the requirements for the lead abatement program.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"We're looking at city codes about the safety standards of the apartment that a client may be interested in, and informing the client of the condition.  Clients have the right to choose where they live."

Amber Mathews is a resident and landlord of a two family home on West Pleasant Avenue in Syracuse.  She didn’t qualify for the abatement program herself, but her tenant met the requirements.  She says siding, windows, and painting were done within weeks.

"I really do ultimately hope to serve as an inspiration to encourage homeowners to reach out and utilize the resource available to us because it's necessary.  These houses are hold, and the financial break is helpful."

Mathews says she didn’t have to pay a dime for abatement; the cost is covered by a federal grant secured by the county.   She says she can also rest easy that her children are safe. 

Information on the county's lead poisoning prevention program can be found here.

This poster shows some of the house before and after abatement.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News