Lead can not only be hazardous to your health, it can also be hazardous to your pocketbook. If you are a real estate investor or owner occupant of a historic building, chances are the building is full of lead paint. Depending on the severity, lead abatement can be expensive and time consuming. Assistance from Federal and State governments has been available for years, but the method of reimbursement has been inconvenient and the program rules less than owner-friendly.
Realizing that they have a major problem on their hands, in the late-2000s the City of St. Louis Building Division created a new window replacement program in order to remove old lead-covered windows in multi-family units. The Multi-Family Window Replacement Program is designed to help eliminate lead hazards in multi-family rental units, which are being marketed to low and middle-income families. Under the program, multi-family buildings with lead-painted, wooden windows can qualify for a $200 per window (possibly higher for historic windows) reimbursement credit for replacing their old windows with new double hung windows. The City of St. Louis will reimburse the owner for up to 10 windows per unit, for a potential total of $2000 per unit.
Vacant units, for which an owner wishes to seek the credit, will be inspected by the City’s Building Division. This inspection, normally costing as much as $400, is offered free of charge. If lead is detected around the windows, the owner will then replace the problem windows. Anyone can install the windows, as long as they take the free 1-day class in Lead Safe Work Practices through the City. Note that the rules for occupied units are more strict. After the windows have been installed the City’s Lead Inspector will return to perform a lead clearance test. If the unit does not pass the test, the owner will be instructed on what other steps need to be taken to complete the lead abatement. When clearance is granted, the owner will submit copies of their receipts and the City of St. Louis will reimburse the owner under the previously described criteria.
If used properly, this program could be of huge benefit for multi-family investment property owners. With potentially $8000 in window credits per four-family, this one is really worth a look. However, before taking the leap, be aware that there are some restrictions to the program. Most notably, that the landlord must not rent the finished apartments for more than HUD’s annual “Fair Market” rents. For 2012 those rates are $638 for a single-bedroom, $792 for a two-bedroom and $1,020 for a three-bedroom in the City of St. Louis. Not exactly low-end. Plus, these rates can be raised annually in compliance with HUD’s annual “Fair Market” rate increases (HUD Rates). A landlord would be required to keep within these rates for 36 months after completion of the project.
Obviously there are other qualifications for the program, but the most important question at any time is whether or not any funds are available for the program. Since the answer to this question seems to constantly be changing, it is probably best to contact the City of St. Louis to discuss the program. You can find out the latest information on the program, as well as who the current contact is at Lead Safe St. Louis. They should be able to tell you whether or not your project could qualify and when funds might be available for assistance. Note that if this program is of interest to you, it might also be a good idea to check out it’s sibling: the Multi-Family Lead Remediation Program.