§ 23-24.6-23 Compliance and enforcement.
(a) Except as provided in this chapter, the inspection, enforcement, and penalties for violations of the provisions of this chapter shall be in accordance with the provisions and procedures set forth in §§ 23-1-19 23-1-25. In addition to the provisions for enforcement of this section found elsewhere in this chapter, there shall be the following powers of enforcement, which shall be in addition to other provisions of the general laws pertaining to enforcement of the laws of this state and shall not be deemed to limit or replace such other provisions. The provisions of this section shall be liberally construed and shall be considered an essential responsibility of the state to protect public health and welfare.
(b) The department shall establish a comprehensive integrated enforcement program, which shall be designed: (1) to assure that enforcement is certain, predictable, and effective as a means of reducing the incidence of childhood lead poisoning; (2) to direct enforcement efforts to places, areas, and types of structures where there is a high incidence of childhood lead poisoning; and (3) to identify and give priority to addresses where there are multiple instances of childhood lead poisoning and to identify and as consistent with law to provide for the prosecution of persons at whose properties there have been multiple instances of childhood lead poisoning and lead hazards have not been corrected. In order to effectuate the provisions of this subsection, the department of health: (i) shall maintain a list as a public document of the addresses of properties that are not lead safe and in which more than three (3) children lived at the time their blood was tested for lead concentration and at least two (2) of these children were lead poisoned, (ii) shall maintain a database with the names and addresses of owners of rental housing at the time any child residing in the rental housing was tested positive for lead poisoning for which a second notice of violation has been issued and lead hazards have not been corrected as required pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, which database shall be public and provided to government and nonprofit agencies that are attempting to prevent lead poisoning or to enforce lead poisoning regulations, and (iii) shall notify the attorney general of all second notices of violation, issued pursuant to the provisions of § 23-24.6-17, to which there has not been a response meeting the requirements of law within thirty (30) days after the notice.
(c) The attorney general shall maintain an office of lead advocate, which office shall have, in addition to any other powers that the attorney general may assign to it, the power:
(1) To investigate any alleged failures to comply with the lead hazard reduction, to initiate either a civil or criminal cause of action, or both, to compel compliance via injunctive relief and/or impose penalties and fines, as appropriate;
(2) To bring any actions that may be necessary or appropriate to secure the performance by state agencies and political subdivisions the duties assigned to them by this section;
(3) To notify in writing on behalf of the attorney general any person, who has received a second notice of violation issued by the department of health and has not responded consistent with the requirements of law within thirty (30) days, of the person's obligations under law and the potential penalties for continued violations; and
(4) To establish guidelines to prevent retaliatory actions by property owners against tenants on the basis of complaints or notices of violations arising from this chapter and chapter 128.1 of title 42, or based on the presence of a pregnant woman or child under age six (6) who in any manner seeks to enforce their right to housing in which lead hazards have been corrected in accordance with this chapter or chapter 128.1 of title 42. These guidelines shall define retaliatory actions, including, but not limited to, arbitrary termination of tenancy or other form of constructive eviction, arbitrary refusal to renew a lease, or arbitrary and unreasonable increase in rent or decrease in services to which the tenant is entitled, for all tenants, whether or not they have leases or are tenants at will. It shall be unlawful to take retaliatory actions against tenants arising from enforcement of the provisions of this chapter or chapter 128.1 of title 42; this prohibition against retaliatory actions applies whether or not the tenant has a lease. Damages and remedies for retaliatory actions under this paragraph shall be as provided for in chapter 18 of title 34.
(5) No provision of this chapter shall derogate the common law or any statutory authority of the attorney general, nor shall any provision be construed as a limitation on the common law or statutory authority of the attorney general.
(d) Receivership of properties not meeting standards. Following the second notice of violation, issued by the department of health pursuant to the provisions of § 45-24.3-17(e) for failure to meet the applicable lead hazard reduction for rental dwellings occupied by a pregnant woman or a child under the age of six (6) years unless the violations alleged to exist are corrected or a plan for correction has been approved by the department, the unit may be considered abandoned and a public nuisance, which is a menace to public health, as the term "abandon" or "abandonment" and "public nuisance" defined by § 34-44-2. In those instances the department of health, the attorney general, a nonprofit corporation as provided for in § 34-44-3, or the city or town in which the unit is located shall have the specific power to request the court to appoint a receiver for the property, the court in such instances may specifically authorize the receiver to apply for loans, grants and other forms of funding necessary to correct lead hazards and meet lead hazard mitigation standards, and to hold the property for any period of time that the funding source may require to assure that the purposes of the funding have been met.
(e) High risk premises and dwellings. (1) The department of health shall notify the property owner where both the following conditions have been met: (i) there have been three (3) or more at risk children under the age of six (6) years with at least environmental intervention blood levels and (ii) fifty percent (50%) of children under the age of six (6) years from the premises who have been tested have had at least environmental intervention blood lead levels, that the premises present a high risk of lead poisoning.
(2) A property owner who receives notice that the premises are high risk: (i) shall have thirty (30) days in which to conduct a comprehensive lead inspection that shows that lead hazards have been corrected to the lead safe standard, or (ii) shall present a compliance schedule to the department of health to meet the lead safe standard, which compliance schedule shall be subject to approval by the department of health and shall provide for achieving the lead hazard reduction within ninety (90) days. The requirements of the compliance schedule shall be deemed to have been met if a comprehensive lead inspection shows that the lead safe standard has been met at the premises.
(3) A property owner who fails to meet the requirements of subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be notified that the premises are declared unsafe for habitation by children under six (6). A list of property owners so notified and of addresses of premises for which the notice has been given shall be a public record.
(4) A copy of this notice shall be sent to the town clerk or recorder of deeds in the city or town where the property is located, to be recorded pursuant to the provisions of chapter 13 of title 34. The property owner, so notified, shall post and maintain a warning at the primary entrance to the premises and to each dwelling unit therein declaring that the unit is unsafe for children under six (6) years of age. If the property owner shall fail to make or maintain the posting herein required, the department of health shall post the premises as provided for in § 23-24.6-12(2).
(5) Any property owner who receives notice that a dwelling unit is high risk and who fails to abate lead hazards in accordance with a compliance schedule as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection and there is a subsequent instance of an at risk occupant with an environmental intervention blood lead level, which is attributable in whole or in part to conditions in the dwelling unit, shall be deemed to have committed a criminal offense and may be punished by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years and/or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).
(6) Any property owner who receives notice that a dwelling unit is high risk and who has substantially completed the required remediation as determined by the department may become reclassified from "high risk" to "abatement in progress" contingent upon adherence to the approved compliance schedule for the remaining remediation efforts.
(f) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to limit or impair the existing rights of parties to take action to compel property owners to improve or maintain property under common law or pursuant to any of the general laws of the state of Rhode Island.
(P.L. 1991, ch. 355, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 187, § 2; P.L. 2002, ch. 188, § 2; P.L. 2005, ch. 142, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 143, § 1.)