A dangerous lawsuit – funded by out-of-state trial lawyers who stand to make tens of millions of dollars – will hurt California homeowners and threaten property values, taking particular aim at low-income families who’ve achieved the American dream of homeownership according to Julian Canete, the Executive Director of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In his opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee, the lawsuit claims every home built before 1981 is a “public nuisance” if it has lead-based paint. A judge bought the trial attorney’s argument and now California residents are dealing with the consequences.
Let’s be clear on what that public nuisance language means. Every California homeowner who owns a pre-1981 home could be subject to criminal liability, eminent domain, foreclosure, special taxes to resolve the nuisance, orders to vacate or demolish, loss of tax deductions, and mandatory disclosure on real estate transactions. Their addresses will be entered into a public database.
Canete says that’s a scary concept that undermines state laws which have been thoughtfully studied and reviewed, and already regulate lead-based paint in homes. This ruling applies even if the paint is intact in accordance with existing public health regulations.
The court ruling requires paint companies to provide clean-up funding, but only to a select group of California residents. Only to fix homes built before 1951 and only in the 10 select communities that participated in the lawsuit, which include Santa Clara County, the city and county of San Francisco, Alameda County, Los Angeles County, Monterey County, city of Oakland, city of San Diego, San Mateo County, Solano County and Ventura County.
That leaves a large group of homeowners stranded – those who own homes built between 1951 and 1981 and all those residents in other cities throughout California. They’re branded negatively and have no opportunity to access funding for clean-up.
California’s most vulnerable will likely take the hardest hit. Low-income families who have achieved homeownership will face the harsh reality of decreased home values and added expenses to fix the problem or face the consequences. If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, this added burden could be the difference between keeping your home or simply walking away.