Philadelphia's Lead Court Is Making a Difference

Philadelphia's Lead Court shows compliance for lead hazard remediation improvement.

Lead poisoning continues to be a health problem for U.S. children. Most children’s lead exposure is through homes with deteriorating lead-based paint. To address lead-exposure in homes and its remediation, Philadelphia created a Lead Court, where cases involving non-compliance of owners in response to remediation orders issues by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health are heard.

This quantitative study of the Philadelphia Lead Court examines whether compliance for lead hazard remediation improved from the pre-court period (1998-2002) to the court period (2003-2008). Included in the study were 4,207 cases of properties with an initial failed home inspection (IFHI) for lead hazards: 1,987 Pre-Court period and 2,220 Court period properties.

Key Findings:

  • There was a significantly higher rate of compliance among Court period cases (76.8%) as compared to the pre-Court period cases (6.6%), within the first year of the IFHI date.
  • Four years after IFHI, Court period cases were 83.1 percent compliant while only 18 percent of Pre-Court properties. 
  • Analysis shows that compliance across time averaged eight times more likely in the Court period as compared to the Pre-Court period.

This study shows that the Lead Court has been a successful, innovative tool in increasing the compliance of properties with lead hazards requiring remediation, and may be useful for other cities to consider.