Skip to main content

Erie County and Buffalo City Court announce specialized “Lead Court” to address housing violations

Innovative approach to addressing lead-related violations through accountability and education

ERIE COUNTY, NY – From the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) Environmental Health offices on Wednesday, April 3, Erie County officials and representatives from the Buffalo City Court announced the creation of a special section of housing court to address lead safety violations.

📺 Watch the announcement at the Erie County YouTube page.

“We are incredibly appreciative of the Buffalo City Court’s responsiveness to the idea of dedicating time and space to adjudicate these housing violations,” said County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Protecting young children from lead exposure requires a community-wide effort, and these sessions will provide accountability and connections to resources – both of which are important parts of a total system of prevention efforts. On behalf of Erie County and our health department, we thank these judges for focusing their judicial power on these cases.” 

“The plan is for these court sessions to address violations documented by our public health sanitarians through our Healthy Neighborhoods program and from complaint-based inspections in the city of Buffalo,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “We have a robust primary prevention program in high-risk areas of Erie County where we see a majority of our lead poisoning cases and where the housing stock was mostly built before 1978. Our sanitarians inspect properties for exterior and interior lead hazards, and educate property owners about leadsafe repair and renovation practices. Our goal is to identify lead hazards before they result in a childhood lead poisoning case.” 

“Penalties under the Erie County Sanitary Code can be up to $250 per day per violation, but fines are not the outcome we are working towards,” said Environmental Health Division Director Jennifer Delaney. “Our intent is that these court sessions and any enforcement actions will encourage property owners and landlords to address lead exposure hazards quickly, completely and safely. Those actions aim to prevent people, especially children, from the incredibly harmful and debilitating lifelong health effects of lead poisoning.”

Administrative Judge Phillip Dabney is assigned to the Housing Court and will hear cases twice each week beginning in April. Delays in housing violation cases stem from COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions, the inability for painting and remediation outdoors to happen in cold winter weather, and property sales and transfers which effectively reset the clock on violations and enforcement measures. The Court will work through a backlog of approximately 685 cases, some dating back to 2019, and will be able to hear about 40 to 60 cases each week.

Defendants in cases heard by this part of Buffalo City Court will have access to information about resources available to them through ECDOH. Among them, window replacement funding, participation in the Lead Hazard Reduction program through HUD, and training in leadsafe work practices for renovation, repairs and painting. 

ECDOH is seeking approval from the Erie County legislature in April for two resolutions related to lead poisoning prevention programs. As proposed, the Leading in Lead Prevention Pilot Program will remediate lead hazards in rental units in 14 ZIP codes of concern with a $4,162,750 grant from the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Also, a New York State Department of Health grant of $9,611,000 over five years will be applied to the development and implementation of New York State’s new Rental Registry in Erie County. “We will have much more to share about these programs once the Legislature considers and hopefully accepts these funds,” explained Dr. Burstein

City of Buffalo residents can contact 3-1-1 for housing complaints; any Erie County resident can call the ECDOH Division of Environmental Health for information about lead poisoning prevention programs at (716) 961-6800 or 

  • ECDOH maintains a searchable database of all properties in Erie County. Properties built before 1978 are presumed to have lead paint, which produces lead dust as it chips, peels and degrades, and is a common exposure source for children with lead poisoning. See when your property was built at 
  • Parents and caregivers should talk to their child’s pediatrician about lead screenings at age 1 or 2 years or as recommended. This test involves a finger-prick and small sample of blood and can be done in a doctor’s office. There is no safe level for lead in blood; county interventions and actions start with blood lead levels of 5mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).
  • ECDOH offers training for homeowners and renters on lead safe work practices, and to contractors, property managers and landlords for certification in Renovation, Repair and Painting. Call (716) 961-6800 for information.


ECDOH, Lead Poisoning Prevention: 

ECDOH, Office of Health Equity, Let’s Talk About Lead newsletter: 

American Academy of Pediatrics, Lead Exposure and Children – FAQs for Families:

Lead poisoning is preventable - get kids tested for lead at ages 1 and 2; pictures of colorful birthday cake slices with candles for 1 and 2
Lead Safe Work Practices Training for Homeowners; image of a bristled paintbrush painting a wall with white paint