Attorney General James Reaches $175,000 Settlement with Syracuse Landlord for Failing to Address Lead-Based Paint Hazards

Todd Hobbs Repeatedly and Persistently Violated Lead Safety Laws at His Rental Properties, Where at Least 11 Children Were Poisoned by Lead
Second Action AG James, County Executive McMahon, and Mayor Walsh Have Delivered This Year Against Landlords With Pervasive Lead Violations

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh today announced a settlement with Syracuse landlord Todd Hobbs and his companies – TLH Holdings, LLC and TLH Properties, LLC – for repeatedly failing to address lead-based paint hazards at his rental properties, where most tenants were low-income families. As a result of the agreement, Hobbs will pay $175,000, which will be used for a tenant relief fund that will provide payments to families of the children who were lead-poisoned while living at the Hobbs properties. The funds will also be used to identify and resolve potential lead hazards at Hobbs’ properties with a history of lead violations.  

“Todd Hobbs put families’ health and well-being in danger and betrayed their trust,” said Attorney General James. “As a result of his failure to properly address lead-based paint hazards, at least 11 children were poisoned by lead at his properties. In Syracuse, throughout New York, and across the nation, children of color are poisoned by lead paint at vastly disproportionate rates, and more must be done every day to protect them from the preventable dangers of lead. I am grateful to County Executive McMahon and Mayor Walsh for their continued partnership in fighting this public health crisis so all children can grow up in healthy homes.” 

“With the help of Attorney General James, this settlement addresses three priorities,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “It holds Todd Hobbs accountable, directs resources to reduce dangerous lead hazards, and provides assistance to tenants. It also sends a message to rental property owners: you must provide safe, quality living conditions for your tenants. The city will continue working with our partners to protect children and families from lead poisoning.”

In July 2023, Attorney General James, County Executive McMahon, and Mayor Walsh filed a lawsuit against Hobbs and his companies, alleging that he repeatedly and persistently violated lead safety laws at more than a dozen rental properties around Syracuse. Over the last eight years, there were 413 violations of lead safety laws at 19 different properties owned by Hobbs. At least 11 children were poisoned by lead while living at these properties.

Lead-based paint in residential housing is a pervasive problem in Syracuse, where 81 percent of the housing stock was built before lead-based paint was banned in New York in 1970. Lead poisoning in Onondaga County is highest among children of color, the majority of whom live in Syracuse. In 2022, 510 children in Onondaga County had elevated levels of lead in their blood, and 90 percent of those children lived in Syracuse. Approximately 11 percent of the Black children tested in Onondaga County in 2022 had elevated blood lead levels, compared to under two percent of white children tested.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious and irreversible adverse health effects. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. Children under the age of six are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, as their normal behaviors have resulted in chewing lead paint chips and breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, windowsills, and hands.

Since 2014, Hobbs has owned and managed at least 62 rental properties with at least 91 individual residential units in the Syracuse area. According to city and county records, all of Hobbs’ rental properties were built prior to 1960, and therefore presumed to contain lead-based paint. Most of these properties are rented by low-income families of color.

As a result of this settlement, Hobbs will pay $175,000, $55,000 of which will go to current and former tenants harmed by lead paint exposure at the properties he owned over the past eight years, and $120,000 of which will go towards addressing lead hazards at the 19 properties that Hobbs owns with lead-related violations. Hobbs will be barred from selling any of these properties without OAG’s approval until all lead hazards are resolved.

“Safe housing for all families in Syracuse should be the rule, but too often that is not the case,” said Paul Ciavarri, Community Organizer for Legal Services of Central New York. “We applaud Attorney General Letitia James and her multi-agency team in their fight for relief and justice on behalf of Syracuse tenants. Lead poisoning causes untold harm to our community's most vulnerable families, and negligent landlords should expect to be held accountable to find and fix hazards in their tenants' homes.”

“People should feel safe in their homes and not worry if they are being poisoned by lead. Yet, Black and Brown children in Syracuse have some of the nation’s highest rates of lead poisoning, which puts their education, health, and safety at risk,” said Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, Director of NYCLU’s Racial Justice Center. “Childhood lead poisoning is an environmental justice problem, and holding landlords accountable for it is a racial justice imperative. We commend the AG's office for taking these necessary steps.”

“We applaud this latest action for safe housing in Syracuse from Attorney General Letitia James. The fragile shell of safety that is the home is shattered with every case of landlord negligence,” said Darlene Medley and Oceanna Fair of Families for Lead Freedom Now. “This action against Todd Hobbs is further proof of every landlord's clear responsibility to deliver safe housing conditions. The high costs to our community when they don't are already only too obvious. Our hearts go out to the families harmed, and meanwhile we see a horizon of hope for Syracusans in the important work of Attorney General James to hold another landlord to a common-sense standard of safety and health.”

Attorney General James thanks Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse for their close collaboration and partnership on this matter. The OAG will continue to work with local partners statewide to combat childhood lead poisoning.

This settlement is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to hold landlords and property managers accountable for violating childhood lead poisoning prevention laws in New York. In February 2024, Attorney General James reached a $310,000 settlement-in-principle with Syracuse landlord William D'Angelo for repeated and persistent violations of lead safety laws at 22 rental properties. In June 2022, Attorney General James shut down Syracuse landlord John Kiggins and his company, Endzone Properties, Inc., for repeatedly violating lead paint laws and failing to address lead paint hazards, which resulted in the lead poisoning of 18 children living in Endzone properties in Syracuse. 

In March 2023, Attorney General James sued Buffalo landlord Farhad Raiszadeh for repeated and flagrant violations of lead safety laws at dozens of properties in East Buffalo. In November 2022, Attorney General James secured $5.1 million in restitution and penalties to fund ongoing childhood lead poisoning prevention programs administered by the City of Buffalo and Erie County, as a result of a September 2020 lawsuit against a group of individuals and companies in the Buffalo region for illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in their rental properties. In March 2022, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition in calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen protections against lead poisoning, particularly for children living in low-income communities and communities of color. In September 2021, Attorney General James announced an agreement in her lawsuit against Chestnut Holdings of New York, Inc., a property management corporation, over its failures to protect children from lead paint hazards in New York City. Also in September 2021, Attorney General James reached a pre-suit agreement with A&E Real Estate Holdings, LLC to ensure that children living in its New York City apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paint. 

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Abigail Katowitz, Patrick Omilian, and Steve Nguyen, Special Assistant Attorney General Sharde Slaw, Environmental Scientist Jennifer Nalbone, and Project Assistant Isabel Murphy of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. Assistant Attorney General Melanie Carden of the Syracuse Regional Office also assisted in this matter under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General in Charge Ed Thompson and Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Division for Regional Affairs and the Division for Social Justice are both overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.