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Lead Paint Memo

Memo to Property Owners and Property Managers

Re:  New EPA Lead Paint Rules and Regulations, Important Topic PLEASE READ 

Discussions with property owners and property managers has resulted in the following perceptions:

This information has a far reaching impact.  New Federal regulations impact repair activity on residential rental property or child occupied facility (COF = day care) if the building was built before 1978.  In addition, there is reason to anticipate that eventually, these new rules will also apply to owner occupied residences and also commercial properties built before 1978.  The primary intent is to protect the health of children.

Lead paint was legal until 1978, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency = Federal Government) has new rules that apply to such properties.  All residential properties built before 1978 are considered to have lead paint unless it can be proven (tested) and certified to be “lead free.”  Such tests are expensive under current technology.  The issue is that of “dust” that may contain lead.  If lead paint was used, the simple act of opening doors and windows creates friction which in turn creates dust with lead.  The EPA publication states People can also get lead in their bodies from lead in soil or paint chips.  In effect, that means that by walking into the dwelling from outside, lead is carried in on shoes.  The same EPA publication includes requirements for tenants and states: “Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces.  Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often” and “Wipe off shoes before entering house.”  The EPA is enforcing requirements on contractors, however, the EPA is not enforcing those guidelines for tenants.  Once again, “personal responsibility” is not required.

Property managers observe the conditions inside dwellings as their jobs require entering a home or apartment from time to time.   In discussions with other property managers and property owners, it would appear that tenants do not provide the level of cleaning that the EPA specifies.  This in turn raises serious concerns that forcing repairmen to follow very demanding procedures and protocols (which generally are of short duration) will have any real benefit if the tenant does not do what they should do.   If the tenant fails to clean, the residents in a dwelling that has lead paint/dust will be exposed to dust 100% of the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.         

Generally, these rules for contractors/painters come into play if the repairs disturb an area that is more that six (6) square feet on the interior or more than twenty (20) square feet on the outside (could create dust).  In brief, the contractor must pay (at his expense) for a 16 page brochure that he is required to deliver to the tenant and if at all possible make the tenant sign a form wherein tenant acknowledges receipt of the brochure.  The contractor will pass the cost of that brochure on to the property owner.  The repairman/painters (including those who work on floors, walls, ceilings, etc., electricians and plumbers) must be “certified” by the EPA.  This requires taking classes on work safe practices, and having a photo ID issued to them.  To be certified, the contractor must pay up to $ 325.00, for an 8 hour course, and must miss a day of work to attend that class.  He must also pay an annual fee of        $ 300.00 for his company.  The certification is valid for 5 years. 

The contractor’s certification must be posted at the job site.  Basically, the worker is to seal off the work area including the floor with plastic, tape it down, wear a disposable suit, mask, eye protection and gloves.  He must use HEPA filtered power equipment which is more expensive equipment.  When the job is done, he must remove the taped down plastic and then follow cleaning protocols that are very specific.  The moist cleaning pads that are used must be compared to a color chart provided by the EPA.  If the colors do not match, he must clean again, etc.  He must use an EPA vacuum (HEPA) cleaner as one requirement in this cleaning process.  This vacuum cleaner costs is in the range of          $ 600.00 and the filters are also very expensive.  If the repair is on the exterior, then plastic must be extended from the foundation to a distance of 10 feet and an area of 20 feet must be cordoned off.   Signs must be posted.  All persons working for the contractor must have received training by the contractor.  Every step of the work and cleaning must be documented by the contractor and those documents must be kept for at least three years.  The penalty for non-compliance by the contractor is  $ 32,500.00, per incident, per day !  You can imagine that the contractor will take his time and carefully follow the rules.   The contractor will of course charge for the additional time required.

The Federal Register (dated April 22, 2008) outlines these new regulations.  In addition, there is a 12 page Minor Amendments Federal Register (dated July 15, 2009).  So far 2 instructors have stated that more amendments are currently being written.  The April 22, 2008 Federal Register states that the financial impact of these new rules is expected to be $ 35.00, per renovation/repair job.  Everyone else in the world (besides the EPA) would anticipate the cost to be a “high multiple of this   “$ 35.00” figure.  For example, go to Lowes or Home Depot, and price the one/use/disposable coveralls and they are $ 7.00 each, which alone is 20% of the EPA’s total estimate of $35.00.  The plastic used to seal the work area is also expensive.  The EPA wants contractors to wear disposable booties over their shoes also. 

This is only a glimpse of this new law.  There are many questions.  One instructor made it known that he is an advocate for these new rules/laws.  He works for a non-profit (his income is not based upon his job production) and he is also an instructor teaching lead safe work practices.  He enthusiastically told the class that when President Obama was a Senator from Illinois, (political machine in Chicago) he pressed for these more stringent regulations.  The feedback of property managers is that these rules/laws are draconian (severe and harsh) and is an over-reach of government and will increase the expenses on rental property significantly, while doing little to protect tenants.  In addition, property managers believe that if property owners support these rules, they should make their feeling known to the government.  However, if the property owners believe these rules/laws are an over-reach by government, then these owners should make their feelings known by contacting their local, state and federal representatives, and by voicing your opinions in the voting booth.

This selective governmental intrusion is damaging and could not have come at a worse time.  Regrettably in this current economy of high unemployment (11.2 % in N. C. in December 2009) and high vacancy rates (double digit), the rental market will not allow rent increases that would help offset these additional expenses.