Q: What are the biggest headaches/challenges you have when it comes to RRP? Is it related to clients' ignorance, work practices, something else?
A: I believe the biggest challenge to professional remodelers is a legal/moral dilemma. It is well understood that customers will not pay for services that don't add value knowingly. If you tell the customer about the added costs and can't articulate any value added to them, the potential client will not do business with you. If you advertise you are an RRP-compliant contractor, the potential customer with some knowledge of the issue won't call you because of the knowledge that white suits cost money (asbestos-abatement analogy). You don't even get a chance to talk about your value-added services.
We are supposed to let consumers know we are compliant in our advertising and any offers to do work in pre-’78 houses. My experience this past year of advertising lead-safe services is that informing the public cut my leads by more than 80 percent in pre-’78 homes. I am reducing the prominence of the EPA logo and any mention of lead-safe services to see whether I can gain back future leads lost to promoting lead-safe work practices.
The opt out must be brought back as was originally in the rule. Sen. Inhofe's bill would do just that. Call your senators and explain the issues RRP has brought upon your business and employment levels. Get involved and speak up.
—Bob Hanbury, president, House of Hanbury Builders Inc., Hartford, Conn., area
I constantly think about future litigation. EPA compliance does not insulate us from lawsuits now that we have educated the public about the potential of lead-related illnesses. I can see the billboards now: Call 1-800-Leadlaw.
Aside from this fear is the situation we all find ourselves in. We educate the potential client, tell them about the process, the increased cost for the work and they hire someone else.
Additionally, why is the EPA targeting only the certified contractors? We took the time and spent the money to do the right thing and for our efforts all we get is the fear of being audited by the EPA. Makes no sense. Why aren't the lazy bureaucrats at the EPA looking for the unlicensed, uncertified law breakers?
—John DiPrimio, owner, DiPrimio Construction, greater Philadelphia area
As a certified contractor I, too, fear the audit process somewhat, but I think the real potential is in future litigation. I also see future un-insurability. Opt out was a great rule because a lot of the leads I got for pre-1978 homes actually asked me where they could sign off on the waiver. Past jobs have also taught me those things have their own unintended consequences and even if you’re 100 percent in the right and can prove it, you still lose. Someone once said to me it's more expensive to be right.
Like John, the thought of an electronic billboard flashing RRP lawsuits makes me want to say no to all future pre-1978 leads.
—Richard White, owner, Centerville Building and Design LLC, Dayton, Ohio, area
Even if the opt out is approved and you do the work without the necessary precautions and a child gets lead poisoning after the fact (maybe it wasn’t even born yet or the female was not yet pregnant), think of the family going to court with a sick child. Chances are you will still be found at fault. Also, let us think about the safety of our employees. I would not want one of my employees bringing home lead dust to his family just because the customer decided to opt out.
If all the work was done by EPA standards and you were sued, you would have a much better chance of winning the suit having all the proper documentation. I have decided to use a specialized demo company that does all the demo work, including all the necessary paperwork, as well as takes on all the liability with a minimal cost to me.
—Michael Hydeck, owner, Hydeck Design Build Inc., Philadelphia area, and NARI national president
The best thing we can do right now is vote for the candidates who want the government out of our businesses. In addition, it is absolutely imperative to follow EPA lead-safe guidelines, unless $37,500 doesn't mean anything to you. We accepted it right away, did the training and do our best to comply and document our processes.
—Kevin McCann, president, McCann Windows, Chicago area