I was forwarded an e-mail last week from a friend of mine who is a general contractor licensed in the State of Minnesota. He’s also a Certified Lead-Paint Renovator with the official blessing from the EPA and he’s also registered with the EPA. (I am also a Certified Lead-Safe Renovator as well, but I have not coughed up the $300 to register my company with the EPA because I’m not sure I want to do any more renovations of pre-1978 houses due to the liability). He’s let me know he won’t work on homes any longer that were built before 1978. The liability is not worth it.
So what’s the liability? Well the biggest liability is that as a contractor, and a contractor is anyone who receives any kind of compensation to any kind of work for someone else – yes, even if all you are given a 6 pack and pizza…you are a contractor. If you are doing painting, sheetrock repair, flooring, electrical, siding etc, etc. etc. on a home that was built before 1978 you must either test to see if there is lead in the area in which you are working, or you must prep the house as though there is lead in the house. Now if you test and there is no lead, you are all clear and can do your work however you want. If you find lead or if you just prep the house as though there were lead, there are many steps involved to do it properly. Hundreds of thousands of contractors across the county are required to go through an 8 hour class to be trained at professional schools such as Kaplan or perhaps an industry association. The cost might be anywhere from $100- $250 for the course plus the loss of a day of work of course. Prior to taking the class BTW, they take a picture of you as well…never before have I experienced that where I attended a certification or professional training where they take a picture for the government. Nice, huh?
Once you pass the course, you have to register your firm with the EPA. That costs $300 and I believe is good for 3 years. They also require that you buy a HEPA vacuum which cost between $500-$700. You will also need to buy fashionable and disposable Tyvek suits and lead test kits.
If you are found to be doing work and you haven’t checked to see if there is lead in the house or if you haven’t taken the proper precautions when prepping the home, you can be fined up to $37,000 per incident, per day. So let’s say you’re rehabbing a home like tens of thousands right now across the U.S. You could be installing new windows, painting, redoing the floors, painting the exterior. If you screw up how you prepare the home that could potentially be nearly $150,000 in fines to the contractor. The contractor might be getting paid $30,000 to rehab the property. With the $30k, he has to pay his labor, his insurance and the materials. That doesn’t leave him much and he’s at the mercy of an inspector potentially claiming he’s out of compliance.
The good news is right now the EPA does now have the staff to deal with this. However, if they get creative and strike a revenue sharing agreement with the states or cities, they could massively hire inspectors and go after contractors all day long. The opportunity for revenue generation is tremendous. Of course eventually more contractors would do what my friend has decided to do and say no mas.
BTW, if you’re a home owner you can do what ever you want to your home on your own even though the EPA has said lead is a threat to the health of the nation and you have not been trained to deal with it, they say you are free to do whatever even if you have young children around – they are most susceptible to the lead apparently.
I have talked to hundreds of contractors who have worked on thousands of jobs and often times in rotten conditions with dust. To a person I have not found a single person who has suffered an illness due to being exposed to lead paint nor have they run in to anyone they know who has suffered a lead paint related illness and yet somehow our government says that 1 million children are affected by lead each year and most of it from paint. The only stories I hear are the ones about the welfare kids eating paint chips in the inner city. Because of that they have decided to mandate these new lead safe rules with extensive requirements but it may just be a trap not only for contactors, but also for home owners.
I know this is a long post, but I’m almost done. IF lead paint is such a problem, then every city in America should require a permit for painting and yet most don’t. For example, the City of St. Louis Park, MN clearly highlights the need for every contractor to be lead certified in order to do work on your home (there are some exceptions). This rule goes in to effect today, August 1, 2011. They provide all the links you need to check up on your contractor. Be sure to report them to the EPA if they try to give you a bid but don’t prove they are lead certified . And yet, if you read further on the City of St. Louis Park’s web page, you will see that permits are not needed for painting. What? So which is it. Is this important or not?
Okay, so what’s the liability for the home owner? Well, first of all, the EPA may, over time, continue to ratchet up the requirements for pre-1978 homes. What I see as the bigger issue now is if you go to sell your home. I believe at some point in the near future, there will be real lead disclosure requirements, not like the obligatory one we all use now. In fact, proof that the contractor either tested the home or that the results upon the completion of the work may be required to disclosure to prospective buyers. If you have your contractor test your homes and you find lead, be prepared that that must be disclosed when you go to sell. I’ve talked with other real estate agents. Very few have ever seen anyone admt on a seller’s disclosure form that they have lead in their house. I’m not sure this is going to go over well with buyers in the future. Note, as of 2 weeks ago, the EPA waived the requirement for the contractors to do the dust test before completing the job.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. You might be asking, but how does anyone know about this new lead paint regulation? Well, the EPA has a plan to start to advertise the need for home owners to make sure they hire lead-certified renovators.
Lastly, the EPA has estimated that the new regulation will only raise the cost of the average job by $27. That’s pretty funny. If you’re having windows put in, plan to pay an extra 20-30%. That’s slightly more expensive than $27…but only slightly. That’s okay. You’ll pay it and be happy because you will feel more comfortable that you hired someone who is certified and you won’t get exposed to lead even though millions of windows have been replaced in America and yet I haven’t heard of a single story of anyone getting lead poisoning from it.
If your contractor is working on your pre-1978 house and he’s not in a Tyvek-like suit that looks like a HAZMAT operation, then he very well might be breaking the law unfortunately.
- EPA’s Lead Paint RRP Rule Enforced with Unprecedented Vigor Against House Painters: Shearer Painting is an Accredited RRP Lead Renovator (prweb.com)
- Lead Paint EPA RRP Fines: Enforcement Guidelines Released for Contractors – Large Fines At Hand, LEAD HEPA Vacuums Crucial (prweb.com)
- Contractors putting your family at risk (jennstrathman.com)
- Remodelers and Homeowners weigh in on new EPA regulations (mediamaxevents.wordpress.com)