One More Regulation to Cut Into Our Real Estate Profits

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has changed its regulations for renovation, repair and painting (RRP) activities.  Some of you may already know that as of April 22, 2010, all contractors and renovators must be trained and certified in the EPA’s new lead-based paint work practices in order to conduct RRP activities on pre-1978 housing and child occupied facilities.

Previously, anyone who owned a home built prior to 1978 could opt-out of the lead-based paint rules if no children under the age of 6 or pregnant women would be living in the home.  Now, there is no longer an opt-out option.  If you are renovating, repairing or painting (“RRP”) a home that was built prior to 1978, either the house or the components of the home that are being worked on must test lead free by a Certified Risk Assessor, Lead Inspector, or Certified Renovator, or the lead-based paint work practices outlined by the EPA safety must be followed and you must be certified. Failure to follow these new rules can result in a fine of up to $37,500 per incident of violation. This penalty can be charged as both a civil penalty for failure to comply and a criminal penalty.  That’s a $75,000 per incident violation charge!  Obviously, it is worth your while to comply rather than be found out.   In addition, potential imprisonment for willfully or wantonly ignoring the requirements can be invoked. 

Due to the influx of renovators and other workers requiring certification, the EPA has extended a grace period for those who have not yet obtained certification.  The EPA will not enforce its rules against individual renovation workers if the person has applied to enroll in or has enrolled in a training course by September 30, 2010 and has completed the course by December 31, 2010.  Firms will also not be fined for rule violations until October 1, 2010.  However, to be clear, if you are already certified, the EPA can and will be issuing fines for violations.

Who is affected by this lead-based paint regulation change?

Anyone who performs RRP activities for profit is affected by the change in regulations.  This includes property managers, people performing RRP activities to flip a home for profit, real estate agents doing repairs themselves, contractors and renovators.  If you are a Do-It-Yourselfer who is not planning on turning a profit on the property then you are exempt from these regulations.  However, the EPA does still advise to follow the safety precautions that they have outlines as lead-based paint dust is very harmful.  Basically, if you are performing RRP activities that disturb more than 6 square feet of paint indoors and 20 square feet or paint outdoors, then you must be trained and certified by the EPA.

Maybe you have not performed any RRP activities nor are you ever planning to in the future, you may still be affect by this change in regulation.  When selling, renting out, or leasing a home it is now a requirement to disclose any known information about lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.  This means that if the space you are renting, leasing or selling has been tested for lead-based paint, the test results must be disclosed.  If leasing out a pre-1978 property, a disclosure form about lead-based paint must be included in the lease.  Sellers must also include a lead-based paint disclosure in the sales contract and buyers are allowed ten days to check for lead hazards.

What is "disturbing" paint?

The EPA considers any action that removes paint from its surface in an area that larger than 6 square feet indoors and 20 square feet outdoors to be disturbing the paint.  This includes window replacement, weatherization, and component replacement in a home.  Such actions such as scraping, open-flame burning or torching, sanding, grinding, using a needle gun, abrasive blasting and sandblasting are all activities that will disturb paint, and therefore require you to be certified and the EPA’s safety instructions to be followed. Surprising they didn’t include cleaning with TSP.

What are the EPA’s lead-safe work practices?

The work practices outlined by the EPA appear simple enough.  One must (1) contain the area, (2) minimize dust and (3) clean up thoroughly when dealing with lead-based paint.  There are, however, very specific ways in which to perform these actions so that the lead-based paint dust does not spread.  In other words, when the government gets involved everything becomes complicated and expensive despite the sugar coating they try and put on their regulations.  Unfortunately with the heavy fines and risk of legal action for not following the rules it is prudent that every investor be up on on this regulation.

For more information about the Lead based Paint Directive or how to become Lead-Safe Certified, visit the EPA’s website at

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  1. I havent been to the training yet, but understand that the training is more about how you document your activities than how to actually perform remediation? Has anyone out there been to the training and can tell us more about it?

  2. Yes the EPA rule has been floating around for some time.It is amazing with all the investors I talk to that they don’t know or don’t care about it!

    We have already seen EPA handing out not full but partial fines in Atlanta of 8k or so.

    The bottom line is if the property is built before 1978 you MUST factor that in as a lower offering price to compensate for the extra costs and rules with rehabbing.This applies to most apartment building complexes as well.I see many pre 1978 buildings selling for cheap or being torn down now with this law in effect.

  3. I have taken the training in Los Angeles. However, I’m still very confused about the actual procedure. If I’m doing demolition such as taking out drywall and exterior siding and put in a dumpster (normally parked on the street), it’s almost impossible to “contain the area”. I went to a local building department last week and it had the EPA RRP ruke poster posted. The building department maybe serving as a watch dog for EPA.
    Anyone know if EPA has a hotline for practical questions?

  4. I am licensed in NC. Along the lines of “Surprising they didn’t include cleaning with TSP,” power washing homes built before 1978 was explicitly mentioned in our training/certification class. If you are in an area where EPA (or city agents) are checking for violations, you better do a leadCheck swab test before you start. Our policy is… if lead is present, don’t power wash. Period. The cleanup process is too extensive and time consuming (read as expensive) and we aren’t interested in creating a lead soil remediation liability.

  5. I am amazed that I haven’t read more about this in other investor posts and websites! So now I’ve been trying to catch up reading about this law and I’m confused. Does this mean that I need to become certified if I own the property and and am in control of the rehab? Or do I make sure the crew doing the work is certified?

    • I heard about it in an “informational” session, not the actual training. The session was held by a person holding the training (and pretty much advertising it….).
      From what I remember, the person doing the work must be certified AND the company the person works for must be separately certified. If you have a crew working on it, I believe only one “team leader” needs to be certified, but there is also some special team leader class that needs to be taken.
      The company’s certification consist only of a fee that needs to be paid every so often, no seminar. You can imagine the outcry of the participants that day, calling it a money-making thing.
      So if you are one person, and you happen to have an LLC, you need to get the training, pay for fee, plus pay the fee for your company, as far as I remember.

  6. My understanding is if the crew is doing the work they need to be certified. If you are doing the work you need to be certified.

    This applies to investment properties and not owner occupied homes. Some investors will try to get around the system to save some rehab coin.I personally like going to bed at night with no worries instead of facing massive fines for non-compliance.

    This is just my understanding after reading the EPA website and updates.Even the EPA says the new rule is a work in progress which they will tweak as they go along.

  7. Grace Lau, check your state regulations, but demolition like you talk about [i]when there is lead paint present[/i] will require a certification in abatement rather than RRP. Check the poster you saw for contact phone numbers. See also

    Margaret, if you delegate the work, make sure they are certified. If you do (or oversee) the work, I would get certified.

    Regarding “[i]the outcry of the participants that day, calling it a money-making thing…[/i]” of course they did. In my class I heard it too. I even heard a contractor say that asbestos was “no big deal” in the context of no special handling was necessary for asbestos work… no abatement or special precautions necessary! This is pure ignorance.

    For the casual rehabber doing small amounts of work, first just check for lead. Many homes don’t have lead and the regulations don’t apply. Rule of thumb: the older the house the more likely the presence of lead. Windows and doors are more likely to contain lead than elsewhere. True of painted trim and mouldings.

    The regulations clearly apply to rentals. See also and search for ‘rental’.

  8. Hi Chris,Thanks for the answer. Most houses in LA, especially those away from the ocean, do not have lead paint in the interior. However, EPA requires proof. Do you think it will be worth to spend $500 bucks for the test before the renovation?

    • The test shouldn’t cost $500. The leadCheck swabs are only a few dollars each and the time necessary for testing is relatively short. The documentation process can be the worst part of the testing. In my class, I tried to develop a “best practices” list. One item was [i]Use an independent test source for owned property…[/i]. But the rules don’t say you can’t lead check your own property. Check around and I’ll bet you find a lower than $500 solution. You could ‘trade’ testing results on another investor’s property, for instance. Just keep it legit and accurate.

  9. Grace: Yes, your $500 test will potentially save you thousands in potential legal fees. Consider it your insurance policy.

    Chris: Excellent info and resources!

    Uwe: Yes, the 1-hour information seminar is designed to explain the EPA RRP Rule and the importance of certification. It is also to let people see if the law actually applies to them and if they need to be certified and of course, where and when they can become certified. The 1-hour information seminars I have heard of were all free. Yes, there is a cost for trainings usually between $175 – $225 unless you live in a remote area where the trainers may be price gouging. There is no regulation for the amount a training facility may charge. In the East Coast I had heard of $500 and up! In Hawaii it was $425 but recently dropped to $325.

    Our remodeling firm is an EPA Lead-SAfe Certified Firm ($300 fee for 5 yr certification).
    We have two EPA Certified Renovators ($165×2 – we traveled to the Mainland for training).
    If we have a job where we need more than two Certified Renovators, we may train our employees and document their training so that they may also work within the target space. Otherwise, our employees are off site until we “clear” the space (remove all painted surfaces and pass cleaning verification).

    To sum up the RRP Rule in a nutshell is “containment.” Work in a pre-78 building and contain the dust according to the RRP Rules. If you test and there is no lead present then RRP Rule does not apply.

    I recently read of tainted produce from lead-based paint in the soil. Power-washing is a HUGE no no.

    Lead in our bodies will circulate for about a month, then the body will treat it like calcium and absorb it into our bones. This is why lead testing is so invasive/painful as is the treatment (chelation). The more you learn, the more you realize.

    There is a lot of head burying in Hawaii but we won’t expose ourselves to the lilability of not following lead-safe work practices.

  10. I, for one, will sign up for the classes. I haven’t even heard of where I can take the free 1 hour seminar to explain the ruling. There is only one place I found in the large metro Phoenix area of Arizona that gives classes which are $250.00 here.

    While reading on the government websites, I also found a memorandum stating that enforcement actions for violations will not be enforced if the workers have applied to enroll in renovator class by the end of Sept. and have completed the training by Dec. 31st. So I have two weeks to get it together.

    I also found out my contractor for electrical and plumbing has the special vacuum that can suck any dust particles out of the air and he is certified. It wasn’t in my budget before, but it is now!

  11. Jeff Robinson on

    I’m confused, I am a certified Lead Abatement Contractor in Louisiana, and will be working on a school! I will be notifying the DEQ. Do I have to notify EPA too? These seems kinda stupid? My certification as a Lead Abatement Contractor is much more stringent, I would think that I’m more certified than an EPA RRP contractor, If I’m working on a lead abatement project would I actually need to be a Certified Lead Abatement Contractor Or a Certified RRP contractor.

  12. Jeff, when I took those classes to become certified, it was explained very carefully that I was certified to test for the presence of lead and not abatement. If I renovate a home where lead is found, I have to document and keep records, contain all dust in the renovation according to their rules and I can teach (and document) anyone working for me that might do the work and they must clean up very thoroughly according to their rules. I absolutely cannot do Lead Abatement unless I hire someone like you. Renovation is just disturbing the area and therefore containing the dust that occurs so that it won’t spread or encapsulating it (like painting over it), not removing anything. All the documentation is kept in my records for 3 years. I don’t have to notify anyone, I just have to have the records in case anyone asks for it. You are definitely more certified than me.

  13. Oh, no! Not more regulations to cut into your profits! It’s nice to know that you have such a responsible attitude about preventing lead poisoning. Thank God for the government and the EPA ; otherwise who would protect us from people like you who don’t give a shit about anything but filling your wallet?

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