Lead Paint

New lead paint rule is elephant in your house

February 2010

            “A very large elephant is coming into your house,” said one state official regarding the new lead paint renovation and repair rule that goes into effect on April 22 this year. “Nobody is happy with this law,” she added.

            The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Paint Program Rule – or “RRP rule” for short – is highly technical and reads like the IRS tax code on the EPA’s lead website: www.epa.gov/lead. It’s going to be hard for owners to figure out what they must do.

            Most owners probably should get certified in the complex “lead-safe work practices” that will be required for many repair and renovation projects on their rental property.

            SPOA members will have the advantage of reading about the rule in its newsletters. We are forewarning you about the new rule. Most landlords, however, won’t even know about the rule until it’s too late. Non-compliance with the law is going to be rampant, and complying with it is going to be difficult. This rule is government micro-regulation to the max, and it’s doubtful that a high compliance rate will ever be achieved.

            This article explains who must get certified (practically everyone) and where to go to get certified. If we get something wrong – and we expect to – we will try to correct it in future issues.


Overall requirements

            The problem is that the new rule is extremely technical and invasive. It isn’t just one rule; it is a whole giant set of rules. It requires owners to be certified – that is, take and pass a course – in how to do complex lead paint renovation procedures that incorporate “lead-safe work practices” – OR hire a contractor who is certified in the new procedures. A certified worker must always be assigned to each covered work project.

            The procedures are just as bad as what deleading contractors must do when they abate or delead an apartment – that is, wear “space suits” and breathing masks, cover everything with plastic, clean up daily and meticulously, use only approved methods of disturbing the paint, hand out pamphlets, keep records, etcetera, etcetera. All this for each and every repair or renovation that involves changing any windows, doing demolition, or disturbing more than six square feet per room of interior lead paint (or 20 square feet of exterior paint) in any building built before 1978 – unless you have had a lead inspection that proves there is no lead paint on the surface you want to disturb.

            If you didn’t “get” what you just read, re-read it. Because once this new rule is underway, there will be fines – and even jail sentences – for owners who do not comply with it. The fines and jail time can double if it is determined you knew better.


Who must get certified – Part 1

            First of all, there are two kinds of certification. One certification follows after taking and passing the eight-hour training course in lead-safe work practices. This article is primarily about this kind of certification.

            The other certification is called “firm certification.” A “firm” means a business, and landlords who receive rent are in a business. This certification just gets the firm owner to agree to use lead-safe work practices. It sets the firm up for serious fines if it does not comply with its own agreement.

            Does each individual landlord have to be “firm certified”? There are conflicting statements about firm certification on the EPA lead website (www.epa.gov/lead). One statement suggests that all rental property owners must be “firm certified.” Other statements suggest that only rental property owners with bona fide employees must be “firm certified.” Being hired and paid by the owner on an hourly or salary basis, having taxes withheld and paying workers compensation insurance are probably the defining characteristics of “employees.” Is an occasional or regular handyman an “employee”? Maybe, maybe not.

Firm certification costs $300, paid to the EPA.


Who must get certified – Part 2

            Now back to the first kind of certification where you have to take and pass a course in lead-safe work practices and other required procedures.

            If an owner does not want to get certified and do the actual repair or renovation work himself or herself – or closely supervise a non-certified worker, then the owner definitely must hire a contractor who is certified.

            Not everyone must be certified. At least one certified worker must be assigned to and supervise each and every work project covered by the new rule and must be present at the work site during set-up and clean-up. But non-certified workers are allowed to work at the job site provided they have had on-the-job training by the certified worker in the lead-safe work practices.

            Presumably, a rental property owner can be that one certified worker who assigns himself or herself to each job and can be the person who does on-the-job training of non-certified workers. That’s why most small property owners will want to take the eight-hour course on lead-safe work practices and other required procedures.


What is the course

            The certification course is a one-day event that requires eight full hours of time. Six hours are lecture; two hours are “hands-on” training where trainees physically practice doing the lead-safe work techniques. At the end of the course is a 25-question multiple-choice test that all trainees must pass in order to receive a photo-ID certificate. The test is not “open book.”


Where to get certified

            About five Massachusetts companies currently offer the certification course (see nearby list). The course costs anywhere from $195 to $250 or higher, paid to the company.

            The certification lasts for five years, after which a four-hour refresher course must be taken to receive another five-year certification.

            Here are the five Massachusetts companies listed on the EPA’s lead website as providing the approved training courses.

  • ATC Associates, Inc.
    73 William Franks Drive
    West Springfield, MA 01089
    Phone: 413-781-0070
    Training nationwide

  • The Aulson Company, LLC
    199 Pond Street
    Georgetown, MA 01833
    Phone: 978-500-0248
    Training nationwide

  • Environmental Compliance Services *
    588 Silver Street
    Agawam, MA 01001
    Phone: 413-789-3530
    Training in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Vermont

  • Institute for Environmental Education, Inc.
    16 Upton Drive
    Wilmington, MA 01887
    Phone: 978-658-5272
    Training nationwide
    Ask for Donna.

  • Mary L. Chabot
    62 Pond Court
    Webster, MA 01570
    Phone: 508-847-0654
    Training nationwide