The Environmental Protection Agency's new rule on lead-safe practices for home renovations takes effect on April 22. Coastal cities, especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, are full of the pre-1978 homes that the new rule covers. And by all reports, remodeling contractors in the region — and indeed, throughout the United States — are far from ready. An EPA website explains the requirements, starting with certification: "Understand that after April 22, 2010, federal law will require you to be certified and to use lead-safe work practices. To become certified, renovation contractors must submit an application and fee payment to EPA." To obtain certification, contractors — and, depending on the circumstances, their supervisors and even their field employees — have to take an 8-hour EPA class involving classroom instruction as well as hands-on training. Remodeler Bob Hanbury, of Newington, Connecticut-based "House of Hanbury," is slated to present a talk to builders and remodelers about the new rule at the JLC LIVE Residential Construction Show in Providence, Rhode Island (March 24 - 27). Says Hanbury, "This is the first major federal regulation that has ever really impacted remodelers. And in the northeast, 65% to 70% of the housing stock is pre-1978. That doesn't mean that it will all test out as having lead paint in it and requiring the safe work practices, but a good percentage of the jobs will." Hanbury says the EPA is radically underestimating the cost to contractors of complying with the new rule. "The EPA says it will cost $39 a job to comply," he says, "but I think just the paperwork will cost $100 a job — filing it, checking it off, certifying it, keeping records, keeping the wipe samples and pictures of all that you've done." And the paperwork could be far more important than many contractors realize, says Hanbury — because it could be a key part of defending yourself against a potential lawsuit. That danger is a bigger threat than EPA enforcement of the rule, he argues: "The real risk of this is that your client suddenly thinks their kid has been poisoned, and you really need to prove that you have complied absolutely, completely, and thoroughly with the rule, or your liability is clear. They have set up a new duty of care and a new standard of care for everybody in the remodeling industry now. So if you don't have your paperwork in order, even a beginning baby lawyer could eat you up." But as remodeling consultant Shawn McCadden points out, EPA enforcement is also likely to focus on paperwork. McCadden is scheduled to teach a day-long pre-show session for builders at JLC LIVE titled "The Game Has Changed — It's Not Business as Usual." While McCadden's focus won't be the lead rule, he says "it will be sprinkled into it — because the lead rules are one part of the game that has changed." McCadden's web page of lead-related resources is here. McCadden says, "A lot of guys, particularly the hands-on guys that are running a business and working at the same time, are probably under the false understanding that it's really just about the work practices, and how you need to do the work differently now. And that is certainly a piece of it, but it's really the insignificant piece for those people. That's probably the easiest thing to take care of in their businesses, making those changes. Of bigger concern, I suggest, is probably the compliance -- the paperwork and documentation." The EPA has very little money for enforcement, McCadden says. "Most people doing this work are thinking that the EPA is going to show up and inspect them on a jobsite, just like OSHA might. And that certainly can happen, but more likely is that an EPA person is going to go down to the building department, look at permits, cross-reference the address of the house against their database to see when the home was built, and then go and find that contractor — and then say all right, for these 14 jobs that you have done in the past nine months, we would like to see all your compliance paperwork. And just because the EPA didn't show up at your job, just because you didn't put your sign out or even if you didn't get a permit, that doesn't mean you're hiding from them. According to the rules, the EPA has the right to look at your records, and they can get a subpoena to require you to let them look at your records." The rule provides maximum fines of $32,500 per day per violation — and multiple paperwork errors are considered to be multiple violations, even on a single job. With only limited funds for enforcement, says Bob Hanbury, the EPA may decide to make examples out of a few high-profile remodelers — as they have done with existing rules that require nothing more of contractors than to hand out informational pamphlets to building residents. The basic requirement of the rule is to have workers, or at least their supervisors, take the EPA certification course. How is that coming? At his last meeting with the EPA, Bob Hanbury says, "They said they think they need at least 220,000 certified renovators before the rule takes effect on April 22. And right now, as of two weeks ago, they have 6700."