Deleading - Price Gouging (Massachusetts)

7 Replies

Hey BP, 

I had a lead inspection done on a property I own (Massachusetts) which turned up very little lead paint according to my review of the inspection report and by multiple contractors that I have received estimates from; however, their estimates have been incredibly high to address the small amount of lead paint.

Does anyone else feel like the lead abatement process is a scam and that these contractors are totally price gouging because they feel like they can? 

If anyone has a referral for an honest contractor who is licensed in Massachusetts for deleading and/or a company that does vinyl siding and is certified "lead safe" I would really appreciate if you could pass that long.

@Owen D. As far as I understand, the process of deleading isn’t hard or all that specialized. All (legal) contractors should have their RRP certification anyway and follow lead safe practices anyway.

The big cost is usually just the amount of work. If all the trim in the house has lead paint, removing and replacing all that trim is quite a bit of work/materials. (Or stripping the paint if that’s the direction). But the lead portion of it shouldn’t add considerably.

Maybe approach a contractor as you need these items replaced, and see if that changes their quote. It might be as soon as you say de-lead, dollar signs appear...

@Owen D.

Contact a contractor. One that isn’t certified

Pay the 500$ for him to take the 8 hour course and have it be his first job.

He won’t bid it at market value in the field.

your asking a specialist to perform his job. Not price gauging

@Nino Alfano In MA it is a $500 course, but it is a 4 day (32 hour) course, followed by bloodwork ($320), and a state exam and a license to become a contractor ($575) and to do your own work also a supervisor's license ($175)

@Owen D. I am a delead supervisor in MA and I can tell you the reason it is expensive is stated above. Every year you have to pay roughly $1000 for the licensing and refresher courses as well as more money for the blood testing every 3 months. It is also expensive because it is dangerous and a highly stressful job as the contractor takes the fall if the wipes don't pass. It's very labor intensive and dirty. Materials are a low cost, but everything else adds up. That being said a great recommendation in MA for deleading is:

Peter Atsiknoudas. PM me for his contact info as I cannot post it in forums.

Thank you all for the replies. I understand it's a specialized area and there are certain precautions and additional expenses required by the licensed deleader. The price discrepancies I have been seeing still seem pretty egregious.

For instance, I received an estimate (from a reputable painter) to scrape and paint an entire two family home, all trim, etc. and for 2 coats of paint prior to having the lead inspection. Then I decided to have the lead inspection to ensure that I was providing the safest environment for all future tenants and I started getting estimates as high as or higher than the painting. And to clarify, the lead paint was not on the entire house. On the exterior it's mostly concentrated to window/door trim and on the inside there are two hallways with hairline cracks in plaster which I was informed by one of the contractors would only be filled with Ready Patch. Two basement windows which could be replaced or covered with plexiglass.

So personally, though I understand there are overhead costs and risks associated with the job I personally believe some of these contractors are taking advantage of people who may be uninformed or scared about the findings in their report.

All that being said, I can certainly appreciate that there is still hard work involved, I just think this tipic is worth discussing and that there should be more public education on the topic. The state's website and materials are not very clear on the paths to remediation and what homeowners can and cannot do themselves.

@Avery Heilbron thanks for the insight and for the recommendation, appreciate it!

Your tenants also probably think you are price gouging them.  You probably think your boss is underpaying you. Everyone thinks they should be able to get paid more, and pay less for services. We however live in a free market. People can charge what they choose and people can choose to pay it or not. People can choose to or not choose to work for the available capital a job offers. The market is amazingly efficient.

There are methods that the homeowner can do him/herself, depending on the level of risk/exposure. If its very small amounts, look into it. Good place to start would be contacting the town or the lead paint inspector you used. It is a 5 minute online powerpoint "test" a first grader could pass.

I had to cover window sills and trim using aluminum. If you don't think you could do the work yourself, you can have any contractor take the course. And its free.

@Owen D. The price discrepancies are also highly dependent on the type of work the contractor will do. One contractor might do whole component removal (removing an entire, door & door jamb) and the other might remove the door. There is still lead paint on the door jamb, but these are now both compliant. The term deleading is misleading because it is lead abatement not no lead. So the difference in price might be because someone wants to scrape and someone wants to cover the lead up. If they are scraping then they would also need to fix the wood that they have scraped so it still looks good (unless they are a bad contractor). You can see how some ways of making the home compliant can be vastly different in labor.

Also when you are in compliance you can fall out of compliance very quickly. Chipped paint that was covered with joint compound and is no longer loose is compliant. If it becomes chipped again you're out of compliance and once again liable.