Roughly 4.7 million California homes are now designated “public nuisances” thanks to a recent court ruling, saddling homeowners with the very real likelihood of increased liabilities, lower property values, forced disclosures and government inspections. Why? Because they own homes built before 1981 that may contain some old lead paint.

San Diego County homeowners will be hit hard by the ruling. All pre-1981 homes in the city of San Diego are now tagged as “public nuisances.” However, only homeowners whose homes were built prior to 1951 are eligible to receive funding from the court’s abatement plan.

This leaves thousands of San Diego homeowners — with homes built between 1951 and 1981 — with an unfunded mandate to inspect and remediate if necessary…or live with the “public nuisance” stigma hanging over their homes. This scenario is not ideal for pre-1951 homeowners either — if the court funds ever become available to them, they can only be used to remediate lead paint on certain interior surfaces.

Legislative Action

The ruling immediately cast a dark cloud over California’s housing market, and not surprisingly more than 600,000 voters supported a ballot initiative to bypass the legislature and go directly to the voters to fix the mess. However, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins wisely stepped in and committed to deliver a statewide solution, rooted in good public policy, to help every affected homeowner.

Now it’s time for our representatives to act on this commitment and support the Lead Safe Homes legislative solution. If the legislature doesn’t take action, the court’s ruling will stand — and that’s very bad news for millions of hard working Californians.

Under the court’s ruling, just 10 jurisdictions are eligible for remediation funds. The amount of court-ordered funds is unknown and not yet available to homeowners despite 18 years of litigation. If funds do become available, homeowners will only have four years to access abatement funds — when time runs out, all unused funds go back to the paint companies.

In contrast, the Lead Safe Homes legislative solution helps all homeowners in six important ways:

It’s broad and flexible. The proposed solution establishes a statewide program that makes lead paint abatement funding available to every California homeowner, regardless of their home’s age or ZIP code. Funds can be used to abate lead paint on the interior and exterior of homes and can also be used for program inspections, education and outreach.