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$3,600 Home Draws $115K Settlement

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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City officials in Kalamazoo, MI, have agreed to pay $115,000 to a homeowner to settle her claim that the city failed to disclose lead-based paint information in violation of federal law.

Brandi Crawford Johnson, 33, paid just $3,600 for the 110-year-old foreclosed home last year but said that up to $80,000 of the settlement would be used for lead remediation on the property.

The proposed settlement—negotiated by the City of Kalamazoo, Crawford Johnson, and her attorney—must be approved by the court, according to the city attorney.

Lead-safe pamphlet
EPA.gov

The city failed to provide the homeowner with an EPA-approved pamplet on identifying and controlling lead paint hazards when it sold her a foreclosed home.

The city commission voted to approve the settlement Monday (April 15).

Kalamazoo has admitted that it did not provide the required lead-safe pamphlets to the homeowner when it sold her the home in August 2012.

Lead in the Home

Crawford Johnson, the mother of a 7-year-old son, claimed that city officials knew the two-story, 110-year-old home contained lead-based paint when she bought it for $3,600, according to city attorney Clyde Robinson. The 1,800-square-foot home had gone through tax foreclosure proceedings.

Robinson said officials had had no knowledge of lead-based paint at the house.

“We didn’t do any testing on the property,” he said. He said the city had considered rehabbing the property after obtaining it from the state in 2007, but had determined that it would be too costly.

A contractor said the house's exterior siding was caked in layers of lead-based paint, according to a video posted on mLive.com.

video
mLive.com

In this video, a contractor talks about lead paint at Brandi Crawford Johnson's house in Kalamazoo.

Other areas of the home also tested positive for lead, including the kitchen, dining room floor, windows and soil, the reports said.

"This is a huge job, a very, very huge job," Mike Fehler of Midwest Training & Environmental Services told the Michigan news outlet.

It is unclear whether Crawford Johnson's son had elevated levels of lead in his blood. City officials said he had slightly elevated levels, but Crawford Johnson says her son has "normal" blood lead levels, according to news reports.

Pamphlet Missing at Closing: ‘Misstep’

Though not required to test the property for lead before making the sale, the city was required under federal law to make certain disclosures to the buyer about the possible presence of lead-based paint. That included providing Crawford Johnson with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved lead-safe pamphlet.

Robinson said the city officials had failed in that respect. “Unfortunately, we made a misstep” in not providing the required documents, he said.

Kalamazoo officials made their oversight known to Crawford Johnson back in January.

“City officials notified [Crawford Johnson] and the purchasers of two other pre-1978 properties that it had failed to provide the required lead information at their closings,” according to reports, citing a city a press release.

Lead-based paint was banned for use in homes in 1977. Homes built before 1978 may still contain the paint.

The Claims, Settlement

In March, Crawford Johnson, who had been renovating the property, filed a claim over the city's failure to provide the pamphlet. She further alleged that the sales agreement did not include language relating to lead-based paint.

Crawford Johnson also had the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) test her home for lead through the lead-safe program.

Crawford Johnson house
screenshot from mLive video

Crawford Johnson paid the city $3,600 for this home and will get $115,000 in a proposed settlement.

“I was really upset when I found the house tested positive for lead, and that’s when I called around for a lawyer,” she told mLive.

Since there is a child involved in the case, the city attorney said that a court must approve the settlement amount.

Robinson told mLive that the remediation would cost $75,000 to $80,000. She and her family plan to spend a month in a hotel until the contractor finishes the project, reports said.

She also said that she had always wanted to live in this type of house.

"I believe that God intended for me to buy this house," she said.

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Health and safety; Lawsuits; Lead; Lead Disclosure Rule; Residential

Comment from Nancy Godfrey, (4/18/2013, 8:57 AM)

What exactly did this homeowner expect when buying a 110 year old home? That she could just move in and live? Especially after only paying $3,600 for it!! I personally think this is a shame for the city to have to pay that much money simply because they failed to provide a brochure to the buyer!! When does it become the buyer's responsibility to perform due diligence prior to buying a very old home for a very low price?


Comment from John Fauth, (4/18/2013, 9:03 AM)

I am not often a fan of treating government as a lottery ticket, but if it's true (as the story implies, though the city denies) the city knew there was lead paint present, then they had an obligation to disclose. Wow, great run-on sentence. My high school English teacher would be proud. Not.


Comment from Donald L Crusan, (4/18/2013, 9:24 AM)

Common Sense has left the building.


Comment from Phil Kabza, (4/18/2013, 11:47 AM)

I've commented before here on the seriousness of lead paint exposure and on the importance of handling lead issues with professionalism. But I think the doctrine of unjust enrichment may kick in here. I hope an appeals judge sends the settlement back to the lower court, who orders reasonable compensation to the home owner, gives title back to the city, and the city plans a tear down for this structure that does not remotely warrant an $80K investment.


Comment from Wayne Skilton, (4/18/2013, 1:16 PM)

In short. We're doomed.


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