Lead-Paint Rule Opt-Out Revoked

One day after the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) became fully effective on April 22, 2010, the agency announced significant changes in how remodelers must respond to a rule many feel unprepared to address.

The changes were not entirely unexpected, since they had been published for comment as part of the rule-making process.

First, the exemption under which homeowners could sign a waiver to opt-out of the rule by certifying that there were no children under 6 or pregnant women in the home effectively has been removed, Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said at the National Association of Home Builders trustees meeting in Washington on April 22.

Record-keeping requirements have changed as well. Remodelers must give copies of documents related to lead safe work practices to owners and/or residents within 30 days of completion or submission of the final invoice.

Although not part of the current amendments, another proposed rule would require dust-wipe testing after most renovations and provide the results of the testing to the owners and occupants of the building. The EPA expects to finalize the rule by July 2010, according to an agency press release.

EPA’s Owens says in a memo that the agency does not intend to take enforcement actions against firms that applied before April 22 but which have not yet received official certification from the EPA. He says that applications filed before April 22 will be reviewed by June.

This does not mean, the memo continues, that the EPA will not enforce rules about work practices and training requirements.

Remodeling Activity

Kitchen and Bath Remodels Up

Kitchen remodeling is making a big comeback in 2010, spiking more than 191 percent nationwide over the first quarter of 2009, according to ServiceMagic.com’s Q1 Home Remodeling and Repair Index

Service requests for complete kitchen remodels in the Midwest increased 266 percent; Great Plains, 241 percent; and Northeast, 229 percent. Highlighted projects for the kitchen include cabinets, 12 percent; appliances, 4 percent; flooring, 10 percent; and countertops, 34 percent, coming in second to complete remodels (41 percent).

Furthermore, breaking down the 30 percent increase nationwide for remodels in the bathroom, ServiceMagic.com witnessed significant shifts and uptick in the following areas: Northeast, 56 percent; Midwest, 45 percent; and the Deep South, 34 percent.

Sixty-three percent of consumers anticipate completing another improvement project in 2010, with 32 percent of these homeowners submitting requests for the second project before May 2010.
Seventy percent of these consumers paid cash for home improvement projects within the first quarter of this year.

Looking into the second quarter of the year, during what’s known as “Home Improvement Season,” 70 percent of consumers anticipate improving their home’s value. The leading area of the home consumers are focused on is outdoor living spaces (37 percent) as weather begins to warm and homeowners spend more time outdoors.

Service professionals are feeling secure about their company’s performance, with 80 percent reporting optimism about the next 12 months, according to ServiceMagic.com’s data. Interestingly, 86 percent of remodeling professionals are optimistic about the next 12 months, making them the highest ranking group.

Existing-Home Sales

Transactions Surge 6.8 Percent

Buyers responding to the home buyer tax credit and favorable affordability conditions boosted existing-home sales in March, marking the beginning of an expected spring surge, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million units in March from 5.01 million in February, and are 16.1 percent above the 4.61 million-unit level in March 2009.

“Sales have been above year-ago levels for nine straight months, and inventory has trended down from year-ago levels for 20 months running,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist said.

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