One out of four building material dealers responding to a survey last month on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) just-enacted rule on lead-based paint say remodelers and renovators have canceled work on a project because they lack the certification needed under the new rule. And one out of 20 respondents say customers have returned materials because of the rule, the ProSales/National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) survey found.
"I now have size-specific windows that will not work in other projects," one dealer said. "I will either be stuck with these or will have to sell at a substantial discount."
"All of our customers are angry," reported poll participant Craig Wisehart, manager of Seward (Neb.) Lumber. "They may turn down much of the work which has kept us afloat the last year or more (mainly window replacement in pre 1978 houses).
"The whole thing is ridiculous and will end up hurting our business," Wisehart continued. "How can the government give people an energy tax credit then turn around and make that same job cost more, because of the rule?"
The EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule is intended to protect children and pregnant women from lead-based paint, exposure to which can lead to learning disabilities, behavior issues and reduced intelligence. Starting April 22, contractors working in homes built before 1978–the year lead paint was banned–must be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. Failure to follow the rules can subject renovators to heavy fines.
The NLBMDA, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and other organizations urged EPA to delay the April 22 effective date, saying too few people were aware of the rule and there weren't enough certified renovators–much less enough trainers to provide certification classes–for the program to succeed. (NLBMDA still is trying; keep current at www.prosalesonline.com.) The ProSales/NLBMDA poll found one-half of the dealers estimated that just 10% of their affected customers were even aware of the rule, and nine out of 10 dealers said they believed more than half their affected customers were ignorant of the new standard. (See enclosed table.)
Nevertheless, the EPA launched the rule on April 22. In fact, effective July 6, the rule's potential impact will be widened, because on that date EPA is removing an opt-out provision that would have kept a huge number of projects from being subject to the new regulation. That opt-out clause had exempted a renovation firm from the training and work practice requirements if the homeowner provided a certificate declaring that no pregnant woman or child under age 6 lived in the house.
While EPA and advocates of the rule hope the new regulation will usher in an era of lead-safe practices, a number of dealers predict a wave of cheating is on its way. "Many of our builder customers are concerned that noncompliant companies will undercut their bids by not conforming to the rules," said a manager in Oregon.
Others–including dealers that do installed sales work–intend to seal themselves off from any potential work in pre-1978 homes, even though many of them are places where the federal government is giving or considering tax credits for energy retrofits.
"We are not going to expose our company to the liability and the scrutiny created by these rules," an Oklahoma dealer declared.
A total of 265 people responded to the survey, which was conducted between April 27 and May 4. Of those, 207 responses were from people at building material dealers, lumberyards, molding/millwork companies, and specialty dealers and distributors. The rest were primarily from building material wholesalers or manufacturers.
The responses came from all regions of the country. Three-fifths of the respondents worked in organizations with annual sales below $10 million, and close to four-fifths were at companies that got a majority of their revenues from professional builders and remodelers.