A nationwide survey of remodeling contractors by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) suggests that the additional cost of the EPA’s lead-paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule deters homeowners’ use of lead-safe certified contractors.
The recently conducted survey also found that awareness of the RRP rule is lacking among homeowners, with more than 60% of contractors responding to the survey saying their homeowner clients were not familiar with the rule. Many of those clients said they became aware of the rule only due to communication and education provided by the contractor, NARI said.
“And yet, EPA is poised to add more layers to the existing regulation, which is only a year old,” the organization said, referring to a pending requirement to add “lead clearance testing” to renovations in homes built prior to 1978.
The testing will add even more costs to a project for homeowners, “already resentful of the regulations and extra costs they carry,” NARI said. “The new regulation is certain to impact the regulation-compliant small contracting business owners who are unable to stay within already tight remodeling budgets.”
Awareness of Rule Found Lacking
NARI said that, among those contractors replying to its online survey, 61% said their homeowner clients were not familiar with the lead-paint RRP rule. While 39% said their homeowner clients were familiar with the rule, many contractors said the clients became familiar after the contractor educated them about the rule and explained the EPA’s “Renovate Right” brochure.
Also an eye-opener was the response to a survey question about avoiding compliance with the RRP rule due to the added costs of complying:
Question: Have any of your potential or current homeowner clients indicated they would opt to do their own remodeling or hire someone regardless of their compliance to federal regulations because compliance costs them more?
More than three-fourths of those responding—77%—said they would opt to do the job themselves or hire someone regardless of compliance, with just 23% answering “no.”
Increased Risk from Rule’s Implementation?
As a result of the survey’s findings, NARI said EPA’s implementation of the RRP rule may actually increase the risk of lead poisoning rather than reducing it.
“Many of our respondents stated they lost projects because the added cost caused homeowners to hire uncertified individuals or perform renovation work themselves. This contradicts the intent of the rule, which is to protect children and pregnant women from the possible danger of lead exposure,” NARI said
‘Additional Layer of Regulation’ Called Problematic
A primary objective of the survey was to gauge the potential additional effect of a new requirement the EPA is expected to impose, involving “lead clearance testing.” Such testing involves sampling procedures at the conclusion of a renovation project to determine if any lead is present. The sampling would require use of an EPA-approved wipe and sending it to an EPA-approved laboratory for analysis.
NARI said a small percentage of remodelers answering the survey—26%—reported doing any lead-clearance testing currently. The survey found that, of those doing such testing, the additional cost varies considerably, although the largest percentage—40%—placed the cost in the $100-$300 range.
Impact on Business, Additional Hazards Cited
In comments on the survey’s findings, NARI said it “agrees that children and pregnant women must be protected from the dangers of lead poisoning. As an organization it has educated its members on lead safety long before regulation was enacted.”
The association added, however, that “this latest information points to an alarming trend that 1) could cause more harm to vulnerable populations of children and pregnant women and 2) severely impede the economic recovery of small businesses in the remodeling sector.”
The organization goes on to say that in an “already delicate economy” and with consumer confidence jittery, cost-conscious homeowners may choose to hire a contractor or handyman that is not in compliance with the RRP rule, do parts or all of the project themselves, or choose not to do the project altogether.
“Two of the three scenarios above would put children and pregnant women at risk for lead poisoning, and all three put the industry itself at risk, because the rising cost of hiring lead-certified remodelers is too high for homeowners,” NARI said.
“The consequence of any of these scenarios would be another downturn for an industry of predominantly small businesses still recovering from the last recession.”
|More than three-fourths of contractors responding to the NARI survey said customers indicated they would opt to do the job themselves or hire someone regardless of compliance with the EPA’s RRP rule.|
The organization also noted that a recent government census reports that there are more than 652,000 remodeling businesses in the U.S., and nearly 85% (or 552,191) of those businesses are not registered as an EPA RRP-certified business.
“Additionally, the 99,809 firms that are listed as certified renovator firms will have to go through re-training of the new compliance practices,” NARI said.
America’s housing, which continues to age, is in need of renovation and repair work as homeowners choose to stay put rather than move in an uncertain real estate market, NARI said.
“Lead clearance testing only applies to contractors, not to homeowners,” said David Merrick, president of Merrick Design and Build Inc., Kensington, Md. “Once homeowners discover this loophole, they often choose to do the demolition or project work themselves to save on costs. Ultimately they risk lead exposure because homeowners are not trained in lead-safe work practices.
“Low incomes, unemployment, tight credit, costlier home remodeling, and larger liabilities in the industry are a recipe for disaster,” Merrick said. “We will have hazardous renovation work undertaken by under-skilled workers or homeowners because of regulations that should be reviewed and re-established with reasonable solutions.”
More information on NARI: www.nari.org.