How to Get an HPD Lead Exemption: Lead Free & Lead Safe (2022)

As a landlord or building owner in New York City, getting an HPD lead exemption can significantly lower your lead disclosure and investigation requirements under Local Law 1 of 2004.

Doing this can help you avoid violations, reduce liability, and save money in the long run.

There are 2 types of HPD lead exemptions you can apply for: Lead Free and Lead Safe.

As certified professionals in lead inspection and abatement here in New York City, we put together this guide to help you understand what type of lead exemption you could qualify for and how to apply.

Now is the best time to apply for lead exemptions, since the required XRF testing will also fulfill your Local Law 31 requirements.

***Important Note Regarding Local Law 66:

Per Local Law 66, which was passed in 2019, HPD lowered the threshold defining lead-based paint from 1.0 mg/cm2 to 0.5 mg/cm2. This change went into effect on December 1, 2021.

Any lead exemptions granted before December 1, 2021 based on the old threshold of 1.0 mg/cm2 will be revoked on the first turnover occurring on or after December 1, 2021.

For new HPD lead exemption requests in 2022, testing must be performed at the new threshold of 0.5 mg/cm2 by an EPA-certified lead inspector with an approved XRF instrument.

A view of the New York City skyline.

Local Law 1’s Lead Paint Requirements

Under Local Law 1 of 2004, any multiple dwelling building built prior to 1960 in which a child under 6 resides is presumed to have lead-based paint.

Although lead-based paint was banned from NYC in 1960, it still exists in older residential buildings built prior to 1960. As lead paint deteriorates, it releases microscopic dust particles containing lead — just the slightest amount of which can cause serious health and developmental problems for tenants and their children.

Here’s a summary of the various lead-related responsibilities and requirements for NYC landlords and building owners, according to Local Law 1 and its amendments:

  • Annual Notice — Provide annual notices to tenants to determine if a child under 6 resides (living or routinely spends 10 or more hours per week) in any unit.
  • Investigation — Conduct annual lead paint investigations in all units with a child under 6 to identify potential lead-based paint hazards, as well as turnover investigations whenever a unit becomes vacant.
  • Remediation — Remove or abate any lead-based paint hazards identified during annual investigations, turnovers, or in response to tenant complaints.
  • Safe Work Practices — Use an EPA-certified contractor for any work that involves disturbing more than 2 sq. ft. of lead-based paint.
  • Recordkeeping — Keep records of all annual notices distributed and collected, completed annual investigations, correction work, turnover work, and documentation of work practices. If audited by HPD, these records must be submitted within 45 days.
  • XRF Lead Testing — Use an EPA-certified inspector or risk assessor to perform X-Ray Fluoroscopy (XRF) testing for lead-based paint in ALL rental units within 5 years (by August 9, 2025) — or within 1 year for any units with a child under 6 residing (per Local Law 31 of 2020).

The Benefits of HPD Lead Exemptions

Being granted a lead exemption from HPD means that your pre-1960, multiple dwelling building or unit is no longer presumed to have lead-based paint under Local Law 1. The main benefits of getting an HPD lead exemption for your property include:

  • Protects your tenants
  • No more annual notices
  • Eliminates or reduces investigation requirements
  • No more turnover work
  • Long-term cost savings
  • Reduce the risk of lead-based paint lawsuits
  • Satisfies testing requirements under Local Law 31 of 2020

The last point is especially important for landlords to consider.

When you hire an EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor to perform XRF testing to apply for an HPD lead exemption, you’re simultaneously satisfying the testing requirement under Local Law 31.

The 2 Types of Exemptions: Lead Free vs. Lead Safe

There are 2 types of lead exemption statuses that you can obtain from HPD: Lead Free and Lead Safe.

Whether you qualify for Lead Free or Lead Safe depends on the findings from XRF lead testing, as well as how you choose to abate any lead paint that’s detected.

“Lead Free”

  • What It Means: All painted surfaces in the building or unit are free of lead-based paint.
  • How To Get: You must prove to HPD that ALL painted surfaces have tested negative for lead-based paint, or that any lead-based paint found (regardless of the condition of the paint) has been permanently removed.
  • Benefits: You are exempt from all lead disclosure, investigation, turnover, and recordkeeping requirements under Local Law 1.
  • Ongoing Requirements: None

“Lead Safe”

  • What It Means: All lead-based paint in the building or unit has been properly contained or encapsulated.
  • How To Get: You must prove to HPD that any lead-based paint (regardless of the condition of the paint) has been properly abated through containment or encapsulation.
  • Benefits: You are exempt from lead disclosure, investigation, and turnover requirements, but ongoing monitoring and recordkeeping are still required.
  • Ongoing Requirements: Any contained or encapsulated surfaces must be visually inspected by the landlord every year, and undergo a risk assessment by an EPA-certified risk assessor every 2 years. You must maintain 10 years of records for these monitoring activities.
An HPD agent inspects an apartment for violations.

How to Apply for HPD Lead Exemptions

You can find HPD’s Application for Exemption here.

Currently, this is a paper application that must be printed, signed, and notarized. HPD plans to create an online application portal in the future, but it is not currently available as of this article’s publication date.

Applying for lead exemptions is free (HPD does not charge a fee). The application itself is relatively short and straightforward to complete — most of the work involves arranging and compiling the required documentation from testing and abatement (if needed).

Step 0: Make Sure Your Building is Registered

In order to apply for a lead exemption, your building must be validly registered with HPD.

  • By law, landlords and building owners in NYC must register annually with HPD if your property is a multiple dwelling (meaning 3 or more residential units) or a private dwelling (1 to 2 residential units) that’s not occupied by the owner or the owner’s immediate family.
  • For information about how to register with HPD, follow the steps on the HPD’s website here.

Step 1: Choosing Your Application Type

The first step is to decide what type of application(s) to submit:

  • for each unit individually
  • for an entire building (or common areas only)
  • for a building complex (multiple buildings built at the same time under the same management)

The advantage of applying for a building-wide exemption is that it only requires a single application, reducing the time and paperwork needed.

Lead testing for the building may also be done through random statistical sampling (in accordance with HUD guidelines), which means that you don’t need to test every single unit, which reduces testing costs. However, the drawback is that if lead paint is found in any individual unit later, the exemption status will be revoked for the entire building.

On the other hand, even if you own multiple dwellings, you may opt to apply for individual exemptions for each unit. This requires testing and submitting separate applications for each unit.

If lead paint is found in a unit later, only the unit in question will have its exemption revoked — the exemption status for all other units in the building will remain active.

Step 2: Certified Lead Testing

The second step is to hire an EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor to test for lead-based paint using an XRF analyzer (and possibly paint chip sampling as well).

It’s important to make sure the firm you’re working with is in fact EPA-certified because their certification documents will be required for your application.

  • If your lead inspector or risk assessor is unfamiliar with HPD’s lead exemption requirements, provide them with pages 14-15 of HPD’s Application for Exemption, which includes information about acceptable inspection methodologies and possible reasons for rejection.
  • They will also need to complete the affidavit on page 18.

Based on your choice from step 1, the inspector will either test every surface for each unit or follow the random statistical sampling method.

After the lead testing is completed, you’ll receive an inspection report as well as the signed and notarized affidavit to include in your application.

  • If all surfaces have tested negative (no lead-based paint found), on page 3 (Section IV) of the application select “Lead Free – No Abatement Required”.

Step 3: Certified Lead Abatement (If Needed)

If some surfaces tested positive for lead-based paint, then you must properly abate it in order to qualify for an exemption.

Any abatement work must be completed by an EPA-certified lead abatement firm using safe work practices, and a copy of their certification is required as part of your application.

  • Provide your EPA-certified lead abatement firm with the affidavit on page 19 to complete and notarize.
  • Additional information about HUD’s requirements and standards for abatement contractors can be found on pages 15-17.

The type of abatement method you choose will determine if you qualify for Lead Free or Lead Safe.

  • Permanent Removal / Replacement — This involves safely removing all lead-based paint from contaminated surfaces or replacing the surfaces themselves. If lead-based paint is successfully abated this way, on page 3 (Section IV) of the application select “Lead Free with Abatement Required.”
  • Containment — Surfaces with lead paint are covered completely with a hard material, such as sheetrock or panelling, to prevent direct exposure and stop lead dust or fumes from escaping. If lead-based paint is successfully abated via containment, on page 3 (Section IV) of the application select “Lead Safe.”
  • Encapsulation — Surfaces with lead paint are covered with a special type of liquid or adhesive called an encapsulant, which seals the paint to the surface and prevents the release of dust or paint chips. Encapsulation cannot be used to abate “high risk” surfaces that are subject to chewing, binding, friction, impact, or heat. If lead-based paint is successfully abated via encapsulation, on page 3 (Section IV) of the application select “Lead Safe.”

After any form of abatement above, you must also hire an independent EPA-certified firm or individual (cannot be the firm that completed the abatement) to perform dust wipe clearance testing, which ensures that proper clean-up was conducted.

  • The firm that performs the dust wipe sampling must complete the affidavit on page 20.

Step 4: Required Documentation

Once testing and abatement are completed, it’s time to complete your application and compile the necessary documentation.

Here’s what you’ll be required to submit, depending on the type of exemption that you’re applying for:

For Lead Free (No Abatement Required):

  1. HPD’s Application for Exemption (complete pages 1-5)
  2. Affidavit from lead inspector/risk assessor (page 18)
  3. EPA certification of lead inspector/risk assessor
  4. Lead Inspection Report

For Lead Free (Abatement Required): Everything above (#1-4), plus documentation about the abatement

  1. Affidavit from the lead abatement firm (page 19)
  2. EPA certification of the lead abatement firm
  3. EPA certification of the abatement supervisor or project designer
  4. Detailed records of the abatement
  5. Affidavit from inspector/risk assessor who took the dust samples (page 20)
  6. EPA certification of the inspector/risk assessor who took the dust samples
  7. Lab analysis of dust samples

For Lead Safe: Everything above (#1-11), plus documentation about your monitoring plan

  1. Monitoring recommendations from the abatement firm for contained and/or encapsulated areas
  2. Building owner’s plan for monitoring the contained and/or encapsulated areas

For Lead Safe: If encapsulation was used to abate lead-based paint, you must also include:

  1. Affidavit from the lead abatement worker who applied the encapsulant
  2. EPA certification of the lead abatement worker who applied the encapsulant

Step 5: Submit Your Application

Send your notarized application, including affidavits, EPA certifications, and supporting documents, to:

Department of Housing Preservation and Development
94 Old Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10027
Attn: Lead Exemption Unit
A team of Green Orchard Group Lead inspectors use XRF technology to examine an apartment for lead-based paint.

EPA-Certified Lead Testing & Abatement in New York City

Green Orchard Group is a leading environmental health & safety services firm based in NYC.

We are an EPA-certified lead firm with more than 25 years of experience providing professional lead testing and abatement services.

Please contact us if you need assistance with testing or abatement of lead-based paint hazards.

You can call us at (212) 219-8261 or fill out our contact form and one of our knowledgeable lead experts will follow up with you within 1 business day.

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