• Failure of Contractor to Provide Disclosure Goes over Like a Lead Balloon
  • May 28, 2009
  • Law Firm: Frost Brown Todd LLC - Office
  • When performing remodeling and renovation projects contractors, are faced with a number of challenges. Problems with owners, subcontractors, material providers, architects and designers frequently present the lion’s share of issues on a project. Given the scope of problems that can arise on a project, it is easy for contractors to become so focused on issues like the ones identified above, that they fail to stay current on the laws, rules and regulations governing the work they perform. Often, the result is that the contractor is cited by a government or regulatory agency and fined for its failure to comply with a law the contractor knew nothing about.

    A new rule promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is an example of the type of regulation contractors must be aware of and comply with or face a large fine. In 2008, the EPA passed a final rule, pursuant to its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, requiring that contractors performing renovation work on certain types of structures built before 1978 provide information regarding lead-based hazards. Specifically, the new rule applies to renovation work on single and multi-family homes and childcare facilities, including preschools and kindergarten classrooms, where children under the age of six attend those facilities.

    The rule requires that before a contractor performs any renovation work, it must provide the EPA's Renovate Right pamphlet to anyone who may be affected by the renovation work, such as the homeowner, any tenants, or parents of a child who attends the childcare facility. Among other things, the Renovate Right pamphlet provides information to these individuals on the dangers of lead based hazards, how the renovation work to be performed could expose an occupant to lead, how to protect themselves during performance of the renovation work, as well as confirms that the renovation work is being performed appropriately and safely.

    While the rule was only recently enacted, the EPA has moved to quickly enforce the rule and penalize those that do not comply. In San Francisco, for example, the EPA recently fined a painting contractor, that was hired to scrape, sand and strip paint from an older home, $10,000 for the contractor's failure to provide the required information.

    To protect themselves from such situations, contractors must always keep abreast of any new rules regulating the manner in which they perform the work. While this task is frequently as easy as staying current with articles from local trade journals discussing new regulations, a contractor may be well advised to meet with its attorney to ensure it is complying with all applicable laws before the work is performed.