Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sick of RRP? It's Still Time to Update Your Contract

So am I.  Really.  All this talk about RRP and it feels like nothing's changed. The threatened fines have not really transpired, and today doesn't feel any different from yesterday.  I can speak about Massachusetts, but  Wisconsin, Iowa, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Rhode Island,Utah, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Alabama now have their own state's laws, and I am not sure what is happening there in terms of enforcement.  RRP has done one good thing, though.  It has encouraged contractors to review all of their business practices and make sure that their contracts protect them.

Quite honestly, I tried to market my legal services to contractors reviewing their contracts a number of years ago.  I could not get anyone interested.  Business was booming and contractors had a backlog of work.  Then, two things happened.  The construction industry became one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, and RRP went into effect.  Homeowners and contractors also began fighting about smaller amounts of money and contractors who had never been sued were finding themselves as defendants.

I wasn't happy about the reason, but I was glad to be given the opportunity to review contractor's contracts.  I found that many were not in compliance with state law, and that contractors frequently did not have clauses entitling them to their attorney's fees if they had to go after homeowners for payment.  They didn't include the right to collect interest for late payment, or bases for terminating the contract.

So, as I became an expert in the Lead Law, I developed clauses to help protect contractors when dealing with RRP as well.  I also came to the decision that I should charge the way contractors charge, with flat fees rather than hourly billing for my contracts.

One of the things that scares the public about hiring lawyers is that their fees are unknown.  I decided it is better to make my fees transparent.  So, for $495.00, I will send you my lead paint clauses.  If you want me to review your contract, e-mail it to me.  I will review it and let you know if it needs work and make sure it is in compliance with your state's law.  I will have an attorney from your state double-check if I am not as familiar with your state.  

A home contractor/homeowner renovation contract and contractor/subcontractor contract is $1375.00.

Add a residential new construction contract and the total price is $1950.00.

I will provide quotes for additional contracts and/or states.

I also send out newsletters with additional information about construction law.  Please e-mail me if you would like to receive my newsletter.  My e-mail is ajg@andreagoldmanlaw.com.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Lead-based Paint Renovation , Repair and Painting Rule

The Renovation, Repair and Painting Program went into effect on April 22, 2010. Contractors were scrambling to become certified and make themselves familiar with the law's requirements. Now contractors are waiting to see if the law is going to be enforced and if companies will be fined for violations. It is my responsibility to read the law and to predict where the legal issues will arise so that construction companies can protect themselves.  It is time to start the new year right and have your contract reviewed for compliance with state and federal law with clauses that protect you and your business.

By now, most contractors know that RRP applies to all pre-1978 homes where more than 6 sq. ft. of painted surface or 20 sq. ft. of exterior painted surface will be disturbed.  From the EPA:

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) addresses lead-based paint hazards created by renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint in target housing and child-occupied facilities. ‘‘Target housing’’ is defined in TSCA section 401 as any housing constructed before 1978, except housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities (unless any child under age 6 resides or is expected to reside in such housing) or any 0-bedroom (studio for example) dwelling. Under this rule, a child-occupied facility is a building, or a portion of a building, constructed prior to 1978, visited regularly by the same child, under 6 years of age, on at least two different days within any week (Sunday through Saturday period), provided that each day’s visit lasts at least 3 hours and the combined weekly visits last at least 6 hours, and the combined annual visits last at least 60 hours. Child-occupied facilities may be located in public or commercial buildings or in target housing.

The Rule does not apply to those who are not doing work for compensation, so homeowners renovating their own homes are exempt. It does not apply to post 1978 buildings, new construction, minor repairs or public or commercial facilities not occupied by children under 6. It also would not cover minor repairs or work that does not disturb painted surfaces. Contractors need to be careful however, because they cannot simply rely on homeowner assurances  that the home was built after 1978 if there seems to be evidence to the contrary.

Contractors who work on pre-1978 homes are required to certify their firms with the EPA, and take the 8-hour certification course if they are going to be disturbing lead paint themselves.  I recommend that they keep documentation of the lead-safe practices for more than three years, because the statute of limitations for a lead-poisoned child does not even start running until that child reaches the age of eighteen.

So, even if the law is not being enforced, protect yourself and your family by following the lead-safe practices.     Let the homeowner know that you are a professional, and you intend to follow the law and protect them as well.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Dog and a Truck, or Why RRP May Not be a Bad Thing

I spent the better part of 2010 learning about the EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule and helping contractors understand the law and protect themselves with well-drafted contracts.  I made more presentations than I can count to contractors and construction companies in the northeast, and I heard about their pain:  RRP compliance would cost them a lot more money.  Homeowners had not heard anything about the law and were appalled when they learned that their renovation projects would cost more.  Illegal contractors were undermining their ability to get jobs by failing to get certified and refusing to follow RRP. At the same time, however, I think that most contractors would agree that not just anyone should be able to call himself a contractor.

Contractors should have training and experience.  They should know about OSHA and other safety regulations and use them.  As power tools have developed over time with more safety features built in, construction is a lot less dangerous than it used to be.  Most people would agree that that is a good thing.  Construction is moving towards becoming a profession.  It has become more regulated (most states have home improvement contractor laws), and licensing is usually required.  In other words, it no longer takes just a dog and a truck to be a contractor.

I have experienced that development in the field of mediation.  When I originally became a mediator in 1996, anyone could hang out a shingle and call him/herself a mediator.  Now there are training courses and internship requirements in most states.  In addition, many areas of mediation now require certification.

There are definitely growing pains in the development of any profession, and I believe that RRP falls in that category.  It is a challenge for most contractors, but it also gives contractors the opportunity to distinguish themselves.  They can proudly display their lead-safe certification on their websites and other advertising.  They can let clients know that they are fully licensed and insured.  They make it clear that their job is to protect the homeowner as well as themselves.  In a few years, the RRP rule will just be considered par for the course; the same as becoming licensed or complying with OSHA.  So, quite frankly, I do not believe that it is a bad thing in the long run.

I would like to thank some people for the wonderful opportunities I have had this year to develop my expertise in the lead law and learn more about the field of construction.  Mark Paskell, from the Contractor Coaching Partnership, told me that RRP was going into effect and it was going to be important. http://www.thecontractorcoachingpartnership.com/  His guidance has been invaluable.  Shawn McCadden is an incredible resource for contractors.  He and I have now presented together at a number of workshops, and I am always impressed by his knowledge and entertaining presentations.  http://www.shawnmccadden.com/  When Shawn speaks, contractors listen.  I also want to thank the folks at A.W. Hastings for giving me the opportunity to give presentations throughout New England.  http://www.awhastings.com/  I ended up learning about a number of states' construction laws and got to travel and meet contractors along the east coast.

Happy New Year to all!