Assembly Dems Push Insurance Coverage For Lead Paint Damages

Members of the state Assembly are trying again to require insurance companies to cover losses or damages awarded to tenants who file lawsuits over lead paint exposure.

The Assembly passed a bill requiring coverage in 2023 but the bill wasn’t taken up in the state Senate. Versions of the proposal have also been passed by the Assembly during the 2021-22, 2019-20 and 2017-18 legislative sessions.

Assembly members recently passed the bill (A.1687) for a second time by a 100-48 vote with Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voting against it and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting in favor. Members of the state Senate will have another opportunity to pass the bill before this year’s legislative session ends in June.

Goodell was one of several Republicans to speak on the Assembly floor in opposition to A.1687.

“As a matter of public policy it seems to me that we want legislation that encourages people to do what’s responsible,” Goodell said. “We want to encourage people to do things that reduce the risk to others. We want to encourage people in particular to take steps to remove lead exposure in an apartment. One of the effective ways using economics to encourage people to take steps to mitigate lead exposure in an apartment is to hold them personally responsible if they don’t. So if you’re a landlord and you’re facing the possibility that there might be lead in your building and you face personal liability if somebody is hurt, you have an incredibly strong incentive to make sure that building is abated for lead..

Assemblyman Jonathan Rivera, D-Buffalo and sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will protect renters who are exposed to lead-based paint by prohibiting the exclusion of coverage for losses or damages caused by exposure to lead-based paint from liability coverage provided to rental property owners. There was no debate on the bill and neither Rivera nor any other Democrat spoke in favor of the bill.

“The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is the ingestion of lead paint from poorly maintained residential housing units,” Rivera wrote in his legislative justification. “New York state has a lead poisoning problem. Because lead will remain in U.S. housing for decades to come, it is important that New York state take action to protect renters. This bill requires that liability coverage include coverage for injuries or damage caused by exposure to lead paint. If signed into law, this would be an important measure to protect New Yorkers who are exposed to this dangerous substance.”

Goodell pointed to a recent article he read showing New York is joining the ranks of states where insurance companies are struggling. Property insurance losses average $110 for every $100 in premiums received. Republicans said they are concerned that insurance companies will simply leave the state if they can’t be profitable. Goodell said he would prefer something like New York City’s system that requires lead paint abatement when a rent stabilized apartment becomes vacant. While the cost can be between $75,000 and $100,000 per apartment, the unit is safe for the next tenant once the lead paint is removed.

“What’s this bill do?” Goodell asked. “This bill requires you to pay substantially higher insurance premiums to cover the liability of those who haven’t cleaned up their apartment. Why is it fair to raise the insurance premium on those who are doing what’s right so that we cover those who are not doing what’s right?”


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