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Homeowners Hurt When EPA Scratches Opt-Out

April 27, 2018

As I mentioned in my previous post, the new Renovation, Repair and Painting regulation (RRP) went into effect last week on Earth Day, April 22. The regulation is intended to help reduce the risk of lead poisoning by requiring special precautions when performing work on homes built before 1978. Property owners must hire EPA-certified contractors who have to completely seal off the areas where the work is performed (both interior and exterior), carefully remove all dust and debris, provide special handling and disposal of construction waste materials and take other steps to reduce the spread of lead-based materials that may be ingested or inhaled.

For most homeowners, the requirements are likely to be both burdensome and costly. The number of certified contractors is very small. While many more are seeking certification, classes are limited in size and scheduling. Contractors who obtain the certification will be in higher demand and will have a competitive advantage which will likely be reflected in higher prices when working on older properties. As well, even a simple project will require hundreds of dollars in added materials, training, disposal and time charges in order to assure compliance.

In an effort to ameliorate some of the challenges imposed by the regulation, the EPA had established an “opt-out” that would allow certain homeowners to be exempt from the regulation. Specifically, if there were no pregnant women or children under 6 years of age living at the premises, then the owners could sign a waiver that would permit them to opt-out of the new rules.

However, the opt-out has now been eliminated. Just as the new regulation took effect, the EPA also announced a revised regulation that eliminates the opt-out effective 60 days following publication with the Federal Register.

In many respects, the decision to remove the opt-out is probably a good one, particularly in densely populated communities. Work performed at one property can create dust and debris that may contaminate the ground or air near another where there may be children at risk. Even work done strictly within an interior space will result in dust and waste products that, when removed from the property, could also be a hazard if not handled properly. But what about properties that are far removed from their neighbors? Should the same rules apply? The EPA does not distinguish between apartments in the city and homes located on rural farm lands. Everyone must comply with the new rules.

Have you been affected by the new regulation? Do you know someone who has? Please share by leaving a comment below.