Opening Thoughts from the President and CEOApril 30, 2012
Rich Walker, AAMA President and CEO
In last month’s Opening Thoughts, we looked at the state of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule and the importance of restoring the “Opt-Out” provision, which would allow homeowners without children under age 6 and/or pregnant women to conduct renovations without the increased cost of LRRP compliance. A survey conducted by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) only underscores the significance of changing the LRRP rule to better suit, as well as protect, homeowners and contractors who are involved in renovation and repair.
In summer 2011, NARI surveyed homeowners nationwide on their overall knowledge and attitude toward the current LRRP rule. Out of 930 respondents, the majority noted that they wanted a way to opt-out of the rule entirely. However, 53 percent reported that they had no knowledge that the rule even existed.
What seems to be the most significant data is that nearly half of the homeowners surveyed think complying with the LRRP rule is voluntary, with 29 percent responding that they are more likely to hire a non-EPA certified contractor, who may not follow lead-safe practices, in order to avoid the additional cost of compliance. Recently, the EPA issued fines to two home repair and remodeling companies for failing to adhere to LRRP regulations. However, the number of reported fines for violators is very low.
Even if the number of qualified contractors increases, there will still be too few EPA certified renovation firms to meet the demand of every household who is willing to pay for the additional costs for lead-safe practices. Becoming an EPA certified contractor has little advantage, as many renovation firms face bankruptcy due to additional costs and loss of clients who seek out cheaper ways to go about home renovations. In a June 2011 trade survey conducted by NARI, professional contractors reported that prospective clients noted that, in regards to home renovations, “Any cost added to a project is too much.”
Now, more homeowners are choosing to tackle home improvements themselves in order to cut costs, which brings with it a very real exposure to layers of contaminated paint. With homeowners hiring non-compliant contractors and turning home improvements into DIY projects, NARI believes more children and pregnant women are being put at risk for lead poisoning under EPA regulations. This should be of the upmost concern to the EPA, as this completely negates the original intent of the rule.
If many homeowners are either unaware of LRRP regulations or ignoring them entirely, then who does the rule really protect? If contractors are forced to pay additional costs to meet compliance but still are losing prospective clients, then what advantages are there to follow LRRP regulations? The EPA needs to consider these questions in order sufficiently protect those at greatest risk for lead poisoning and to keep renovation firms in business.