Top city official's rental lacks required lead certificate, state says

The Maryland Department of the Environment has informed a top city official that his East Baltimore rental home doesn’t comply with a state law aimed at reducing the risk of lead-paint poisoning.

The department began investigating early last month after officials read in The Baltimore Sun that Khalil Zaied, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s deputy chief of operations, had received more than $14,000 in property tax breaks on the rental even though only owner-occupied homes qualify for the subsidy.

Agency spokesman Jay Apperson said an initial review found that Zaied did not have a certificate showing he had met the “full risk reduction standard” — a requirement every time a new tenant moves in — at the house in the 2200 block of E. Baltimore St.

In an email Monday to The Sun, Zaied said: “I am working diligently to ensure that the property is in full compliance with all MDE regulations. This was an unfortunate oversight that I am working to correct.”

On Tuesday he emailed the agency a filled-out property owner compliance form, Apperson said. Now the agency will review it, and the matter remains under investigation. 

Zaied registered the rental home with the state April 30, around the time he registered it as a rental with the city housing department. Zaied has rented out the house for more than three years. “Registration is required annually for rental units covered by Maryland’s lead law,” Apperson said. “We saw no other record of any prior registration from any owner at this address.

The three-story brick house was built in the early 1900s. The state’s notice of non-compliance to Zaied noted that the law requires a certain lead hazard risk reduction standard be met for rentals built before 1950, when the city barred the use of lead paint. Ingesting even small amounts of lead can put children at risk for lifelong behavioral, learning and other health problems.

“Please be advised that you are required to hire MDE accredited contractors and inspectors to perform risk reduction treatments and issue compliance certificates,” wrote Paula T. Montgomery, who manages the environment agency’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

The letter, dated May 21, said Zaied had 15 days to provide written documentation if he wanted to settle the case. It said failure to comply with the law could result in fines of $500 a day.

In April, Zaied told The Sun he was unaware he had been getting a 50 percent tax break on the rental house while living in the Homeland neighborhood in North Baltimore. He repaid the city more than $15,000, which covered three years of homestead credits plus about $600 in interest and penalties.

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