The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule is important to be aware of if you are a contractor. The uptick in reports of noncompliance means that more and more people are mindful of the fact that you are responsible for knowing how to handle repairs and renovations in homes or businesses that might contain hazardous materials such as lead paint or asbestos.
What Is RRP?
The EPA requires all contractors such as carpenters, plumbers, general contractors, electricians, and landlords to take measures to properly perform repairs and renovations on structures built before 1978 that have not been certified lead-free by an approved agency.
Lead poisoning is an extremely serious condition that is often overlooked because it mimics so many other symptoms and illnesses. For example in children there are often no symptoms and when there are it is often mistaken for classic childhood illnesses or simple irritability.
Lead can have a major long-term effect on the development of children. It is particularly harmful in women of childbearing age, those pregnant, and children under the age of 6. Testing your home or business for lead may be worth it if it was constructed before 1978 and you don’t know that it was updated in a compliant manner.
Enforcement and Tips On The Rise
The RRP rules are enforced in all 50 states although some states also enforce the rule on their own as part of good practices. Since all 50 states are on board, there has been more emphasis on making sure contractors are compliant and making responsible choices when it comes to their health and that of their clients. In 2016 alone there have been 75 contractors fined and charged with not complying with regulations.
Those operating a small to large business should be aware of the fines that can be imposed on those that do not comply with RRP rules. Even large contractors such as Sears Home Improvement Projects have been subject to punishment.
Just in September 2016, the EPA finally settled with them in response to their violations of RRP. Sears must pay a $400,000 civil penalty as well as implement a program throughout their company to make sure no further infractions occur.
Even small private contractors are finding that they are coming under scrutiny. The end of October saw a Portland contractor fined nearly $70,000 for violations.
Increased Enforcement Highlights Lack Of Understanding and Knowledge
A lot of those that are supposed to be in compliance don’t even know that these rules are out there. Plumbers, carpenters, and anyone else performing repairs, renovations, etc. on a home or business built before 1978 are required to complete a course and submit proper paper work if performing larger projects where lead contamination is a likely issue.
Very small business’ such as sole proprietorship sometimes feel more hardship with the new certification requirements because they are further out of the loop of information and have to face the same costs. Better marketing by the EPA and certification agencies in the future will help small contractors become aware and compliant.
Too Few Certification Agencies
One concern that many have expressed is that there are too few agencies that are accredited to train and certify contractors. This means that if everyone suddenly becomes aware, the demand may be too great. On the other hand, there is significant frustration aimed at the EPA for doing little to get the word out to contractors and landlords.
There is demand for more certifiers. Some contractors and other professionals have branched out to become certified to teach others. If this is something that interests you it may well be worth your time to pursue it.
Those that were initially concerned about the overall monetary cost versus benefit have little to worry about. On average, the cost of certification and extra labor and materials adds only $35 on average to the overall cost of a renovation project.
The heath benefits gained from such a paltry cost are immense and well worth it, especially if you are a contractor. With fines for noncompliance being in the tens of thousands range, there is little reason not to become compliant once aware.
Many Contractors Already Take Precautions
While RRP or any other official rule may make some nervous, it is not that difficult to comply. Many contractors already use the materials and practices that are part of being compliant.
Proper safety equipment, good ventilation, and properly clean up, and disposal is probably already being done, however completing the EPA approved training is the final step. Records of projects must also be kept for three years to maintain compliance.
Why You Need Certified Contractors
It is important to hire certified contractors and testers for your construction or renovation project. The last thing you want is leftover particles of lead-contaminated dust and debris left in your home, business, or rental.
As a landlord you are required to have renovations conducted in an approved manner that protect the safety and well-being of your tenants. Even if you live in the home yourself and rent out just a room or two it is still necessary for you to be compliant unless your housing falls under the following exemptions.
- Built after 1978
- Studio or dormitories that don’t have actual bedrooms
- Space that is the residence of elderly or disabled persons where children under 6 are not present
When a new tenant moves in or an older one renews a lease in your older building you are required to provide the EPA Pamphlet “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home.” If the tenant doesn’t want it, that is fine, but you have to attempt to provide them with the information.
Enforcement Will Continue To Rise
People are much more aware of environmental hazards than they once were. This means that tenants, homeowners, purchasers, and others are demanding a higher level of protection from environmental contaminants such as lead.
It is important to note that reports and tip-off from others regarding noncompliance can come from anywhere. If someone suspects a neighbors home is being renovated in a noncompliant manner for example then they could report the contractor.
Renovations and repairs on rented spaces is another common area of concern. Tenants can sometimes be fearful of reporting possible contamination issues to their landlord.
Contractors that are compliant can make it a point in their advertising. Certifications can increase the positive appeal a contractor has in the eyes of anyone looking for a reliable and trustworthy contractor for their repairs and renovations.
When clients have reassurance, and you make them feel safer and healthier everyone benefits. Also if someone feels that putting off a renovation is a heath hazard, then they are more likely just to go ahead and get it over with. This means homes stay in better condition and contractors can make a better living overall.
Other Sources Of Lead Contamination
While paint is the typical culprit that comes to mind when one thing of lead hazards, it is important that older homes have their water tested if the plumbing is older. Lead can leach into water, particularly hot or warm water. Replacing old pipes and plumbing may be necessary for a lead-free home.
The soil outside of a home can also be contaminated. If the paint has chipped off or someone careless chipped it off and then repainted, then it is possible it has leached into the soil. You can easily have the soil tested at the same time as you have the water tested.
Keeping Up To Date
While the marketing so far might not be so great, the EPA does maintain an extensive site dedicated to lead paint rules and regulations. You can find a certified contractor or simply learn more about possible hazards in your home.
Contractors can find extensive information and get on the path to certification via the site. Most questions about compliance and all forms are accessible via online as well so you don’t have to spend a lot of time with paper forms.