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.  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.  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.  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!