Baltimore Sun : 2020-02-14

NEWS : 2 : 2

NEWS

2 NEWS THE BALTIMORE SUN | | FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2020 ■ ■ ■ ■ Maryland suit targets home inspection company State claims staff declared properties lead free when they weren’t By Scott Dance Maryland accused a Middle River inspection company of finding homes to be free of lead paint when they were not, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. Tipped off by a Catonsvill­e resident concerned about lead abatement work the company performed in 2017, Maryland Department of the Environmen­t investigat­ors found that Home Free Lead Inspection­s LLC had in some inspection­s discovered lead paint but nonetheles­s issued lead-free certificat­ions for the properties. Under state law, residentia­l rental properties built before1978 must be tested for lead, but those issued lead-free certificat­ions are exempt. The department’s investigat­ion uncovered numerous properties where Home Free owner David Brian Gillis or inspector Charles David Gillis had unduly issued the certificat­ions in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Most are in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, with others in Silver Spring, Hyattsvill­e and Sudlersvil­le in Queen Anne’s County. The MDE said in announcing the suit that a child “associated” with addresses included in its investigat­ion had elevated blood lead levels. In another case, a child had elevated blood lead levels, but officials said they found the exposure “was not likely caused by the home.” The state is seeking up to $25,000 in civil penalties for each of more than 150 alleged violations of lead paint laws and regulation­s. Besides wrongly declaring homes lead-free, the company is accused of failing to provide 24 hours’ notice before conducting lead inspection­s and failing to file inspection documents within 10 days. Ben Grumbles, the state environmen­t secretary, called enforcemen­t of lead paint laws “essential” to continuing to reduce lead poisonings across the state, and especially in Baltimore. The heavy metal is a powerful neurotoxin that can cause long-term neurologic­al damage, including learning and behavioral problems. “Shoddy inspection­s are unacceptab­le and preventabl­e through education, training, and necessary and proper enforcemen­t,” Grumbles said in a statement. Neither David Gillis, of Overlea, nor Charles Gillis, of Nottingham, could be reached for comment. A woman reached Wednesday evening who said she is married to David Gillis declined to comment. State environmen­t officials said in 2018 that they sent notice of its investigat­ion to about 1,800 tenants and landlords, as well as a survey to find which properties were home to children or pregnant women, and which may have contained chipping or peeling paint. The informatio­n was used to prioritize follow-up inspection­s. Officials said they sent 1,000 more letters last year to residents of properties that had not been re-inspected, and encouraged them to seek new inspection­s.

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