|Housing codes provide the
basic legal tools for ensuring that homes are healthy and safe.
Typically, housing codes set forth minimum standards for housing
quality, designate an agency responsible for implementing the
code, and provide for enforcement through inspections, orders
to correct violations, and fines. Information gathered during
the course of effective housing code enforcement can enable
a community to monitor the quality of its housing stock on a
Many common provisions in housing codes offer opportunities for addressing
environmental health hazards in the home. For example, provisions addressing
plumbing problems, faulty gutters, and excessive moisture can be used
to minimize water and moisture problems, which may underlie mold growth,
deteriorating paint, and pest infestations. Because most jurisdictions
prohibit deteriorating paint (regardless of its lead content), consistent
enforcement of these provisions could significantly reduce lead hazards
in high-risk housing.
Code enforcers are well positioned to ensure that property owners work
safely and effectively when they undertake repairs. For example, when
requiring a property owner to address mold problems, code enforcers must
ensure that any underlying moisture problems are corrected. Otherwise,
mold growth will recur. In addition, when repairs will disturb painted
surfaces in pre-1978 housing, code enforcers should require the use of
lead-safe work practices (LSWP), and ideally require clearance
testing to ensure that lead hazards are not left behind.
Of course, the mere existence of a housing code does not guarantee quality
housing. Many code enforcement agencies have limited resources, and some
do not have sufficient enforcement powers to ensure compliance. In order
for housing codes to combat landlord neglect and improve conditions in
distressed communities, the codes must be coupled with strong enforcement.
of strategies [PDF] exist to augment the overall effectiveness
of housing code enforcement and to integrate lead safety into code enforcement.