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New regulations on lead paint affect remodelers

Posted online

by Bruce Trimble

for the Business Journal

A new regulation effective June 1 requires remodeling contractors to notify owners and occupants about potential lead-paint hazards.

Participants at a recent environmental conference in St. Louis predicted the new rule would bring increased enforcement of existing regulations.

Observers likened the situation to asbestos regulations, which received little attention in the early years. Gradually the rules have been more strictly enforced.

Until now, only owners, landlords and real estate agents have been required to notify buyers or tenants of potential lead hazards.

Enforcement has been lax, with only a few fines levied on apartment owners, conference participants reported.

The new rule expands coverage to paid renovators of pre-1978 housing.

Under "Pre-Renovation Lead Information Rule" (section 406(b) of the Toxic Substances Control Act), renovators must distribute the EPA pamphlet "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home" before starting a project. Both the owner and any tenants must sign to prove they have been informed.

Any paid worker who disturbs more than two square feet of paint in pre-1978 housing is considered a renovator under this rule.

This applies to any electrician, plumber, carpenter, drywall or paint contractor. The rule also applies to apartment maintenance workers and neighborhood handymen, even if they barter their services.

The rules change slightly if more than two square feet of paint will be disturbed in a common area (such as a hallway, laundry room or playground) in an apartment building having more than four units. In this case, the contractor must distribute information about the timing and extent of the renovation, in addition to pamphlets.

The owner and all occupants must sign to acknowledge receipt.

The rule does not apply if:

?No money, goods or services change hands.

?Work results from an emergency (a hazardous, non-routine situation that could threaten public health or cause substantial property damage).

?A certified lead inspector finds the dwelling free of lead-based paint.

Existing regulation still in effect. A law passed in 1992 placed similar requirements on owners, lessors and agents of pre-1978 housing. According to Section 1018 of Title X of "Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act," sellers must:

1. Disclose all known lead-based paint hazards in the house.

2. Give buyers the EPA pamphlet.

3. Include warning language in the contract and obtain signed statements from all parties verifying that all requirements were completed.

4. Retain proof of compliance for three years.

5. Give buyers a 10-day opportunity to test the house for lead.

A landlord must do the same as a seller, except landlords are not required to give tenants an opportunity to test for lead before moving in.

Agents must ensure that owners and landlords are aware of their obligations and comply with them. If the owner or landlord fails to comply, then the agent is responsible.

If a seller, landlord or agent fails to comply with the regulations, all three can be sued and subjected to criminal and civil penalties.

The 1992 rule does not apply if:

1. The dwelling was built after 1977.

2. The dwelling has zero bedrooms, as in an efficiency apartment.

3. The lease is for 100 days or less.

4. The housing is for handicapped or elderly adults and no children reside there.

5. A certified lead inspector finds the dwelling to be free of lead-based paint.

For more information about lead-based paint hazards or to obtain a copy of "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home," call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD.

(Bruce Trimble, senior consultant with Sunbelt Environmental Services, is a certified lead inspector and a certified lead paint risk assessor.)

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