This section answers the most common questions about the requirements and definitions in the EPA's Renovate, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule, and many of the issues surrounding implementation, cost, and liability. Until recently, remodelers were required only to provide the EPA pamphlet "Renovate Right" to homeowners, neighboring tenants, and others who might be affected by remodeling work. The expanded rule also requires registration, certification, lead-safe practices, and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning among occupants of buildings where lead paint is present and among the people who do the remodeling work.
NOTE: This information does not constitute legal advice. You should consult a professional with any questions regarding this or any legislation.
When does the RRP rule take effect?
The EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule is effective April 22, 2010.
How do I get started?
If you work in homes built prior to 1978, you must do two things on or before April 22, 2010:
- Apply to the EPA for a "Renovation Firm Certification." If you haven't already acted, don't delay: the EPA has stated that it may take up to 90 days to process the paperwork. Apply using this EPA form (9-page, 642k PDF).
For more information, and for examples of how the application is to be filled out, go to this page of the EPA website.
- In addition, at least one employee from certified firms must successfully complete an eight-hour training course and pass an exam to become a Certified Renovator (CR). To find trainers and classes near you, click here.
How much does certification cost?
For companies: The fee for a "Renovation Firm Certification" or recertification is $300. All firms must recertify every five years.
For individuals: The cost of certification for individuals is included in the costs of the required eight-hour training, which varies among training providers. As of March 2010, fees ranged from $250 to $400 per person. Typically, the training fee includes the EPA RRP handbook and other class materials.
Is it enough to certify just one employee? What about other employees?
While it is possible to comply with the RRP rule by certifying just one employee, in practice it may not be possible to comply without certifying several employees or even certifying everyone who works on a jobsite. That's because the two required tests – one prior to starting work to determine the presence of lead, and one after completion of work to confirm adequate clean-up – can only be performed by a Certified Renovator (CR). (The initial lead test is actually optional, but unless you perform the test, you must assume that the building contains lead paint if it was built prior to 1978.) CRs must also be present to ensure that on-site lead-safe practices are properly carried out, which requires being physically present during set-up and tear-down of each affected project every day. A company running just one job at a time may be able to meet these requirements with just a single CR, but companies running multiple jobs concurrently will likely need to have more than one employee trained as a CR.
Also, while only one employee must be certified, anyone working on a project where lead-containing materials will be disturbed must also undergo an EPA-specified on-the-job training session in the use of lead-safe practices. A CR is permitted to provide this training using an EPA manual called "Steps to Lead Safe Renovation, Repair, and Painting" (36-page, 890kb PDF). Workers trained using this manual are not, however, certified; they are permitted to work on jobsites where lead is present, but they must be supervised by a CR.
Should my installer be registered with the EPA as a renovation firm?
"Yes, if your installers are being treated as independent contractors," according to construction attorney D.S. Berenson ("Five Things Most Contractors Don't Know About the New Lead Paint Laws," REMODELING, ByLaw Feb. 2010). "We suggest that anyone performing remodeling on houses built before 1978 (assuming they end up working on lead-paint surfaces) should be registered as a ‘renovation firm.' The law does not distinguish if the person or entity performing the remodeling work has been hired by the consumer or by a general contractor."
Should my subcontractors be registered with the EPA as renovation firms?
Yes. The RRP rule applies to any trade performing work that disturbs a minimum area of lead-painted surfaces. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC contractors, and others performing installations and repairs on pre-1978 housing will need to follow the same certification rules as a full-service or specialty remodeling company. As the general contractor, you are well-advised to ensure that everyone working on your sites understands the RRP rule and uses lead-safe practices at all times. Requiring proof of certification is one way to do this.
Will my existing insurance coverage protect me in homeowner lawsuits involving lead?
Probably not. According to a REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR article ("Are You Insured for Lead?" by Jim Cory), "As it is right now," says Mark Kinsey, owner of PKG Insurance Associates, in Bucks County, Pa., and an insurance broker who numbers many remodeling contractors among his clients, "there is absolutely, positively no coverage whatsoever" under general commercial liability policies for damages caused by lead toxification to homeowners."
Even existing pollution policies, many of which were initially purchased to cover mold, may not cover lead, because the issue is relative new. Several insurance agents in the REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR article were aware of pollution policies that do cover lead poisoning, and they pegged the average premium at $2,500 (the full range of estimates was between $1,800 and $5,000). Premiums are typically tied to the number of people working in lead-related work, the number of lead-related jobs performed annually, and the policy amount.
As for workers' compensation, it should cover employees for work-related lead poisoning, but it is prudent to double-check with your insurer.
I doubt that most homeowners in my market even know about the rule. How will it be publicized?
In a December 2009, article ("An EPA Q&A on Lead Paint," by Leah Thayer), an EPA spokesperson told REMODELING: "Although EPA will initially be focused on teaching firms how to comply rather than bringing enforcement actions, in order to help firms that follow the requirements of the regulation compete with firms that do not, we will also take steps to follow up on tips and complaints from the public regarding noncompliant firms. EPA recognizes that special efforts will have to be made to identify renovations being performed by uncertified renovation firms using untrained workers because those renovations are likely to present greater risks to building occupants." The EPA plans to encourage the public to report instances of noncompliance by calling this hotline: 1-800-424-LEAD.
Also in this interview, the EPA spokesperson said, "The Agency will significantly expand its outreach campaign on the RRP rule's requirements in the near future to stimulate knowledge of and demand for lead-safe work practices, but will also encourage awareness of the entire residential lead program. This will involve print and radio ads, partnerships with retailers, greater Web presence and awareness techniques, and more."
In addition, according to a recent notice on the EPA website, "EPA is placing ads in various publications and venues to get the word out to contractors and those who influence them." The Renovation, Repair and Painting Outreach Campaign page of the EPA website explains the program and provides free downloads of advertisements and marketing materials to help spread the word.
What is the cost of not complying with the rule?
EPA can fine you up to $37,500 per violation, per day, according to the schedule of Civil Monetary Penalty Inflation Adjustments (Federal Registry, vol. 74, p. 627, U.S. code citation for 15 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1) Toxic Substances Control Act) "But your bigger risk is if your client hires an attorney because Johnny doesn't feel right," said Connecticut remodeler Bob Hanbury in a December 2009, article ("Lead on Arrival," by Leah Thayer). Hanbury has been working with the EPA and the National Association of Home Builders on lead guidelines since 1992. While guessing that many contractors won't comply with the law, he expects those "with assets" to be prime targets for related lawsuits.
In addition, as noted in the previously cited article, the EPA says: "EPA has a range of available enforcement options available, ranging from notices of noncompliance to civil or even criminal enforcement action…Remedies range from simple warnings to significant fines, revocation of certification, and, in the case of criminal offenses, incarceration. As described above, EPA will initially focus on compliance assistance, but we will also follow up on tips and complaints and address other violations that present the most significant risks to human health or the environment."
I have heard that some states are taking over EPA's enforcement of the rule. How can I learn if my state is one of these?
EPA can authorize states, tribes, and territories to administer and enforce their own RRP programs. Several states have already done so, and several more have introduced legislation to take over the RRP rule. For the purpose of state programs, the EPA RRP rule is considered a minimum requirement, and in some cases state compliance requirements may be more stringent. While EPA certification will likely be transferrable to state programs, the best course of action is to check with your state's Public Health Department or other appropriate agency. To stay current on state program development or to find out if your state is planning to adopt its own version of the RRP, go to the website of the National Center for Healthy Housing.
Are lead-safe practices required for every project?
No. A project must meet two criteria to come under control of the RRP rule:
- The project must involve housing or child-occupied facilities built before 1978.
- The work must involve disturbing a minimum amount of surface area (at least six square feet on the interior; at least 20 square feet on the exterior) where tests show lead is present.
A "child-occupied facility" is defined as "residential, public or commercial buildings where children under age six are present on a regular basis." To qualify as a "child-occupied facility," a building built before 1978 must meet all three of the following criteria:
(There are some exceptions for housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities, provided no child under six resides or is expected to reside in the building, and for "zero-bedroom" facilities, such as dormitories, hotels, hospitals, etc.)
- It must be visited regularly by the same child under the age of six.
- It must be visited by a child under six years of age for at least three hours on each of two different days of the week.
- The combined weekly visits must total at least six hours, and the combined annual visits must total at least 60 hours.
Is using lead-safe practices the same as lead abatement?
No, and it’s important not to confuse the two terms. The RRP rules apply to projects where the work being done will disturb components (like plaster, window sashes, or trim) that happen to contain lead paint.
By contrast, a lead abatement project is a deliberate effort to remove all lead and lead paint from a given area, whether it is a single room, a whole house or entire commercial or industrial facility. Abatement projects have much more stringent requirements for site containment and protection of workers, and all trash generated by the work is considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of accordingly. While the RRP does specify certain containment practices, worker protection measures, and procedures for proper cleanup, the waste material generated is not considered hazardous and can be disposed of by normal means.
How the work is classified by EPA depends largely on the intent of those requesting the project. When talking with homeowners about lead-safe practices, it is important for remodelers – and their employees and subcontractors -- to understand not merely what work needs to be done, but why it is being undertaken.
For example, if a homeowner asks a remodeler to remove a wall between adjoining rooms, patch the floor, and apply new base and crown molding throughout because they want a larger room with more light, and they want molding that matches the rest of the house, that project will require lead-safe practices if any of the disturbed materials – plaster, flooring, trim, etc. – contain lead. If the test for lead is positive, an EPA-certified remodeling company can perform the work under the supervision of a CR using the procedures prescribed in the RRP.
If, however, a homeowner asks a remodeler to remove a wall between rooms, patch the floor, and replace all of the base and crown molding because they contain lead, that is an abatement project and it requires a certified abatement company to perform the work.
While not required by the EPA rule, it might be a good idea to document the homeowner’s scope of work in writing prior to contracting for the project. It is also worth noting if the scope of work changes after the project has started. For example, during initial discussions a homeowner may define a project that enlarges a space or brings in more light. But after finding out that lead is present in many of the materials that will be disturbed, the homeowner may want to expand the project so as to remove similar materials in other rooms. The EPA has not issued an interpretation of such a situation, but as the RRP rule stands today, defining the work according to the intent to remove lead from the premises constitutes abatement. Language in contracts, change orders, and additional work orders should be carefully written to avoid using the term “abatement” if abatement is not the intent of the client.
How much will using lead-safe practices add to remodeling costs?
The EPA has published estimates that many remodelers agree are too low. Certain costs are fixed, such as the fees for EPA company certification ($300) and individual training ($200 - $400 per person). In a 2009 interview with REMODELING (“An EPA Q and A on Lead Paint,” by Leah Thayer), the EPA estimated that the “costs of containment, cleaning, and cleaning verification will range from $8 to $167 per job, with the exception of exterior jobs where vertical containment would be required.” This is based on EPA research showing that “many contractors already follow some of the work practices required by the rule, such as using disposable plastic sheeting to cover floors and objects in the work area,” and that extra cost would only come from additional steps required by the rule. The EPA also made a deliberate effort to hold down the cost of paperwork, and states that “the record-keeping requirements specific to the RRP rule are designed to be completed by a typical renovator in five minutes or less.”
However, based on conversations with working remodelers and our research into business benchmarks, REMODELING believes that project cost increases will be as much as 10 times higher than what the EPA estimates. The cost to implement the RRP rule will vary depending on the type of job, the number of workers involved, and the number of projects where lead-safe practices must be employed.
Cost summary. Here is a summary of our estimate of how the RRP rule increases both overhead expenses and direct job costs. For a more detailed analysis, read “How Much Will the RRP Cost?” by Sal Alfano.
Overhead. These expenses include fees for training, plus wages paid to employees for time spent in training and for travel and meals; legal fees for modifications to contracts, change orders, additional work orders, employee manuals, and other documents; pollution insurance that specifically covers lead-related risks; and general administrative costs for copying and storing project documentation.
Adding it all up, overhead costs for an average company with three field employees who are paid an average burdened wage of $40 per hour could be about $3,000. At the high end, with costlier legal fees and insurance premiums and higher-paid employees, the overhead expense could reach $9,000 or more.
Because these overhead costs would typically be spread over all projects completed in a year, their affect on the cost of individual projects varies with company size. For a company with annual revenue of $500,000, the upper limit overhead expenses would add about 2% to overhead; the amount would be less than 1% for a $1 million company, and less than 0.5% for a $2 million company. Even so, on a $10,000 project, 2% additional overhead would be $200.
Job Costs. The RRP will require workers on site to consume additional materials, including polyethylene and tape to seal rooms and surfaces; protective clothing; dust masks and filters; and cleaning materials. Based on a gut remodel of a typical 6x8, 1920’s bathroom, the best-case estimate totals about $240 in extra materials; the worst-case, about $420. For extra labor, best-case is about $300; worst-case, about $700. Overall the range is between $535 and $1,120 of additional direct job costs.
Adding it all up. Assuming that direct costs for a typical bathroom are about $10,000, the RRP adds between 5.3% and 11.2% to direct job costs, plus an additional percentage point or two for overhead. At the low end, the selling price (at 35% margin, 2% higher than standard to account for increased overhead) increases from $14,925 to $16,205, a bump of $1,280. At the high end, the selling price increases $2,180, to $17,105. To the homeowner, that represents a net increase of between 8.6% and 14.6% in the overall cost of the job. Where multiple rooms are involved, the cost will be higher.
How can I find out if a house was built before 1978?
You should ask the owner, but many homeowners either don’t know when their home was built or have incorrect information. You can also check records with the local building or tax assessor office.
Another option is to search online. Real estate websites, such as Zillow, often publish this information along with other basic data about a property. The search is usually simple and free, and results are delivered immediately, but it is unclear how accurate the results are.
Kachina Lead Paint Solutions has a site called HouseAgeCheck.com that requires registration and a more formal address-submission process, but also guarantees more reliable results. There are costs attached – currently the charge is $2 for definitive results, $1 for inconclusive results.
Is proof of RRP certification a requirement for pulling a permit for a project on a home built before 1978?
The EPA has published a document outlining how states (as well as territories and tribes) can apply for authorization for Lead-Based Paint Renovation Programs (87 pages, 264 kb PDF). Such a program may include integrating RRP certification into project permitting, although currently we are not aware of any states or municipalities that have this requirement. Remodelers should look for updates and alerts from state and local governments regarding changes to policy regarding the RRP rule.
REMODELING has learned that some remodeler groups are petitioning their local building departments to add the requirement, believing that it will help prevent fly-by-night contractors and D-I-Y homeowners from taking on remodeling projects. Others in the industry believe adding RRP certification to the permitting process will only create even more costs and delays in what is already a lengthy process.