RRP Compliance: the costs of an unenforced law

Update: WXII TV’s Bill O’Neil follows up on the issue.  One quibble, Bill:  We are a specialized window “restoration” company.  We restore, repair and weatherize existing windows.  Window “replacement” companies are a dime a dozen and worth every penny.

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Looking out the window of my 1908 house I can see three of my neighbors’ houses receiving a new exterior paint job.  All of them are being undertaken illegally by the companies hired to do the work.

Nearly six months after North Carolina implemented the EPA’s “Repair, Renovate and Paint Rule” (aka RRP), which subjects ALL companies who undertake paint-disturbing work on pre-1978 dwellings* to fines of $750.00 per day, per occurrence, only a small fraction of N.C.’s firms are certified by the state (list here).

Normally I could give a crap about that; but, because my company is in full compliance with the draconian and expensive-to-deploy regulations,  we stand to lose a ton of business unless my competition is forced onto a level playing field.

Problem is, there is zero enforcement of the new law.  No agency is in the field holding every company’s feet equally to the fire that the fine folks at the EPA stoked to protect us from ourselves.  (Note: According to the CDC, incidents of elevated lead levels in children has dropped precipitously over the last 10 years – without this onerous and expensive Rule.)

So here we stand – certified, trained and fully invested in the material and equipment required by these unnecessary rules that have caused us to raise our prices by at least 15% – watching companies undertake work blissfully ignorant that the RRP Rule even exists,  with no fear of consequence.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, implementation of this rule couldn’t couldn’t come at a worse time.  With the depressed state of construction industry, the last thing the government should be doing is implementing ANY regulations that cause prices to rise so precipitously.  But the Rules are here – and my company tried to do the right thing by coming under compliance months ago.

All I have received for following the rules so far is lost business, and more to come.

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6 Comments

  1. Dale
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Hi David. I feel for you and your company and can certainly understand your frustration. Double Hung is playing by the rules and, in a way, being penalized for doing just that. However, as one of the neighbors I assume you’re referring to, does age of children at the residence play into the new requirements?

    Thanks.

  2. Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I recently had my house painted. One potential contractor brought up the lead paint issue, but as I recall I had the option to opt-out of the remediation process if there were no children in the household. Did I misunderstand this part of the issue? (Maybe I should post this as from “Anonymous” so I won’t get a visit from the paint police.)

    From his proposal: “1) You can opt out of the lead-safe work practices provision (found on the last page of the brochure) if you don’t have children under 6 or seniors with disabilities at your house.”

    (There is some question whether there is a “senior with disabilities” at my house.)

  3. Hugh
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “With the depressed state of construction industry, the last thing the government should be doing is implementing ANY regulations that cause prices to rise so precipitously. ”

    A bit like the NC dept. of Ag. raising the vendor rent fees at the Farmer’s market by 50% earlier this year.

  4. dhoggard
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Dale, No. It makes no difference.

    And to Preston’s comment. That contractor was a bit confused but partially right. The rule WAS that you could ‘opt out’ if there were no children under 6 or a pregnant woman occupying the dwelling (no mention of disabled persons that I’ve heard of).

    Notice I said “WAS”.

    The “opt out” provision was challenged in court by the Sierra Club, and they won. So, starting July 22nd, NO ONE can opt out of the provisions – and the associated costs.

    Last week I bid on a project in Spring Hope. A 60 year-old lady, living by herself, wants to get her windows restored.

    She is fully aware of the lead paint issues and perfectly competent to make a decision on whether or not she wants to absorb the added expense of compliance to the rule. She was quite upset that she couldn’t ‘opt out’ of the provisions.

    I turned down three customers within the last month who wanted our services. They were either pregnant or had children under six in the household. Although we COULD undertake work in such households, the potential liabilities are just too much.

    I can already hear the TV commercials in 3 or 4 years: “Did a contractor work on your house after April 22nd, 2010?…. have you and your loved ones been tested for elevated lead levels? Call Sokolov law firm – we’ll go after the son’s of bitches….”

    This thing is huge, but the public is simply not aware of the ramifications yet.

  5. Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Dave, you’re right that this is huge and I’m seeing it first-hand at my day job. We provide certification classes for our members and that alone is a few hundred dollars and a day spent in a classroom instead of on the job. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of folks who are taking the class around the country and you have a huge expense just on the training side of things and that doesn’t even touch the cost of compliance on the job site. Truly amazing how this has stayed below the general public’s radar.

  6. Posted August 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Dave,

    As a fellow business owner installing replacement windows in San Antonio I could not have conveyed my frustrations any better than what you documented above. I took the necessary steps as well to become a certified installer, invested in the necessary equipment, and I am playing by all of the rules. Unfortunately that will lead to higher bids and lost work because there are simply too many ding dongs out there that are ignoring the regulations and doing the work for a lot less.

    Often times, the rub in my saddle comes from the homeowners themselves. I clearly explain the rule, provide the necessary brochure, and let the customer know that with the presence of lead in the house they must follow these guidelines. I emphasize that every window company they have in their home SHOULD also be explaining this and MUST follow the rules if they want to replace the homeowners windows.

    Homeowners acknowledge the information, smile, send you to the door, and take the bid of the guy who: A. does not figure in the cost of the lead removal procedures and B. Does not do the procedures as stated in the law. Why? As you said above: no enforcement, and no sense of value on the homeowner’s part as to why this rule is required.

    There is going to be a lot more to come with this regulation. As the country wakes up to what has happened and the average homeowner realizes that their right to choose has been taken away and they are required to spend more money, the stink will start to rise from the pile. Keep up the good work and keep the issue hot. This has got to be reviewed, revised, and reinforced the right way.