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Important Information for Residential Landlords: Lead-based Paint Revisited

Peter T. Currin

Owners of residential rental properties should take note of the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010. The new rule was designed to better protect children from the dangers of lead-based paint in older buildings. The EPA enacted the rule in response to research showing that lead-based paint continues to have tragic health consequences for the nation’s children, despite the EPA’s longstanding campaign to educate the public about lead-based paint. The RRP Rule went into effect April 22, 2010, but the EPA deferred enforcement of key provisions of the rule until September 30, 2010. All provisions of the RRP Rule are now in effect. 

The RRP Rule applies to renovations, repairs, or painting activities in residential dwellings built before 1978, and in other buildings built before 1978 where children under the age of six are regularly present, such as day care facilities and schools. The rule describes buildings where children are regularly present as “child-occupied facilities.” In most cases, pre-1978 housing which is intended for use by the elderly or the disabled is not subject to the rule. The rule does not apply to certain emergency repairs or to zero-bedroom dwellings, such as studio apartments and dormitories. Additionally, the rule excludes minor repair or maintenance activities, where less than 6 square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed per room for interior activities or less than 20 square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed for exterior activities. However, the rule does apply to window replacement and the demolition of painted surfaces, regardless of the amount of surface area involved. 

The specific requirements of the RRP Rule are beyond the scope of this article, but can be broken down into three general categories, as follows: 

• Information Distribution. Before initiating renovation or repair work subject to the RRP Rule, firms must give the owner of the property a copy of the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet. The pamphlet contains information about the dangers associated with disturbing lead-based paint. For rental properties, firms must also give the pamphlet to any tenants. The pamphlet can be found at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovate rightbrochure.pdf. 

• Training. Firms performing renovation or repair work subject to the RRP Rule must be certified by the EPA, and the individuals who supervise the work must themselves be certified. 

• Workplace Standards. Most importantly, the RRP Rule imposes various workplace standards designed to minimize exposure to lead-based paint. These standards center on occupant protection, containing the work area, prohibiting or restricting certain practices, and proper disposal of waste products. 

The RRP Rule also imposes recordkeeping requirements designed to document compliance. Violators of the rule can be fined as much as $37,500 per day. As one EPA ad cautions, “If you’re not lead-safe certified, disturbing just six square feet could cost you big time.” 

The EPA conducted an extensive outreach program to educate the construction industry about the RRP Rule, by distributing information about the rule through trade associations, trade publications, unions, etc. Thus, most painters, remodeling contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other contractors likely to be impacted by the rule should be aware of it by now. The EPA also took steps to make sure that property management firms were informed about the RRP Rule, because property management firms that conduct repair or maintenance work are subject to the rule, just like contractors. If you fall into one of these categories and you are not already familiar with the rule, you are encouraged to learn more about the rule before conducting any work on housing or child-occupied facilities built before 1978. 

Residential landlords—particularly those who do not use a professional property manager and do not subscribe to trade publications—are less likely to be familiar with the RRP Rule. An owner of residential rental property who performs work on a home or unit built before 1978 must comply with all aspects of the rule and is subject to substantial penalties for non-compliance. If the owner engages someone else to perform repair work on pre-1978 residential rental property, the owner should ensure that the contractor has been certified by the EPA. 

Although the RRP Rule does not apply to property owners who perform work on their own homes, anyone contemplating repair work on an older home would be wise to review the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet, especially if young children reside in the home. 

For more information about the RRP Rule and whether it applies to you, contact me at pcurrin@williamsparker.com, or (941) 536-2030. You may also visit the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm#requirements.
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