14 Tips to Avoid RRP Fines During Covid-19

A lot is going on in the world currently. There are still millions of homes that have lead paint in them. It is no surprise that all of this mess with coronavirus has led to quite a bit of confusion. There’s confusion regarding how this leaves contractors and others required to be RRP-rule compliant.

Lead paint is still an issue in millions of homes across the US. This page is a full summary of our recommendations for what to do to avoid RRP fines.

With everything going on, the EPA’s memorandum on March 26 recognized that Covid-19 could cause a labor shortage. Check out the infographic below, or read the entire article to see how we believe you best steer clear of nasty RRP fines.

It’s important to notice that the EPA’s emergency policy isn’t specific to Covid-19. It also does not officially recognize Covid-19 in itself as an emergency. It relates to all emergencies and that their policy reflects leniency regarding RRP certifications expiring after March 13, 2020.

From the memorandum, we believe that the EPA will avoid handing out fines if you truly act in an emergency. You have properly documented why the said situation is an emergency.

Suppose you do believe you are acting in the case of an emergency. In that case, we encourage you to fill out the template as part of the documentation as to why the work performed was an emergency.

What work is covered under the exemption?

The EPA has the post-disaster RRP rule exemption. However, this does NOT mean you can perform any home improvement.

It means that you can only perform certain types of work without complying with the RRP rule. There are still requirements that you have to live up to.

Certain types of work may be done without complying with some of the RRP requirements. It’s only when in the case of an emergency:

  • You may do work that is required to mitigate personal property.
  • You may do work that is required to ensure the public health.

Under those conditions, you are exempt from some of the usual RRP requirements:

  • Containing lead dust
  • The posting of warning signs
  • Proper waste handling
  • Information distribution

It is important to note that you are not exempt from the following requirements:

  • The RRP’s recordkeeping requirements
  • Cleaning and cleaning verification

It is also important to note that the exemptions only apply to the portion of the work necessary to address the emergency. It means parts of the work may be covered by the exemption, while other parts aren’t.

I have not been able to renew my RRP certification with the coronavirus

Suppose you go and read the announcement by the EPA. In that case, they are very well aware that contractors have not renewed their certifications.

Suppose your RRP certification expired no earlier than March 13, 2020. You haven’t been able to renew it due to coronavirus. In that case, you may be able to continue RRP work until you can get your certification renewed. However, you need to take steps to regain compliance.

Tips to avoid RRP fines

Maybe you are performing work that is exempt from the RRP regulation due to the Covid-19 natural disaster exemption. Maybe you haven’t been able to renew your certification. Here are our tips to ensure that you do not get a fine for the work you thought you were allowed to do.

  • Document how the work helps mitigate public risk.

Suppose the work you are doing is important to help contain significant health hazards. It includes things like encapsulating rapidly deteriorating lead paint because of a disaster. In that case, you must document what sort of risk is being mitigated by the work done.

Suppose a building is at risk of collapse. In that case, sharp objects pose a health risk. Structural components are currently weak. Document how those risks could lead to people getting hurt. The key is to be as thorough as possible in your assessment and document the various risks with photos, too.

  • Document the various stages of work, and quantify which work you consider to be essential to mitigate the public health risk.

You may want to do an entire project. It is important to remember that you may not be exempt from the RRP rule for certain parts of the project.

Break down the project into individual components. Be realistic when judging whether a part of a project is necessary to mitigate public risk or additional property damage.

If lead paint is peeling, this poses an immediate threat to the people living in the building. On the other hand, removing a living room wouldn’t constitute risk mitigation for the inhabitants.

By breaking down and documenting all the work, the owner asks for and assesses which components can reasonably be said to meet the criteria outlined above.

  • Estimate the level of health risk associated with not addressing the issue.

The importance of documenting why you are exempt from parts of the RRP rule is to show good faith.

What is the risk associated with doing nothing, and what impact will it have? What time frame are you looking at before the risk is likely to end in a catastrophe?

If you are dealing with the potential of a roof collapsing, provide why you believe this is a serious concern. What signs are you seeing, and what time frame do you estimate this could happen under?

You may still think it might be a handful of years before a roof would collapse. You are still erring on the side of caution. You’re simply providing reasonable assistance to ensure the roof doesn’t suddenly fall onto the roof of its residents.

  • Estimate the type of health risk associated with not addressing the issue.

This point is more so to justify that the EPA should choose to agree with your reasoning for exemption should they choose to audit your records. The reason here is to argue fairness and that the measures taken are appropriate given the level of risk.

If the entire house were flooded, it would be relevant to take the necessary action. You’d want to prevent the additional spread of water damage and mold growth. If one area of the house had a small water spill, you cannot reasonably argue that the entire floor should be replaced. First, assess whether there was a risk of the water spill affecting other areas before replacing the entire house.

  • Estimate the likelihood of additional damage associated with doing nothing.

Suppose you argue that a roof installed 5 years ago needs to be replaced to address a public health concern. In that case, you need to ensure that you have your documentation in order. There are cases where someone else may question whether you are doing more work than would be permissible under the exemption. Make sure that you back up your argumentation with the necessary photo evidence.

  • Provide reasonable input on the actions that should have previously been taken to mitigate the risk.

While this may seem excessive, we believe that additional documentation is what will keep you safe in the case of an audit.

Explain why the lack of such actions now warrants an exemption from aspects of the RRP rule.

Suppose a roof should have reasonably been replaced 10-20 years ago, and a severe storm has now damaged it. In that case, we encourage you to provide information on the negligence warranting classifying the home improvement as an emergency.

  • Document your contact with the customer.

Suppose you can prove that you only started contacting the customer after Covid-19 became an actual threat. In that case, we believe that you stand a better chance arguing that it should be considered an emergency to do the work. If a customer first contacted you over email, attach a copy of the email to the template. Attach subsequent copies of the contact.

If you were first contacted by phone, we encourage you to email the customer to reference your initial contact time.

“Dear Mr. Johnson,

On June 30th, you contacted us about your roof replacement and why having this done is an emergency. I wanted to follow up in writing to ensure everything is properly documented. We want to make sure we have properly understood the various aspects of the job.”

  • Provide justification for each step of your documentation.

Suppose a customer requests that your company does more than one type of work for them. Individually document each type of work and why it warrants being considered an emergency to have it fixed.

  • Estimate the loss to property value by not doing anything.

It is important to realize that this will likely be the weakest argument in favor of the exemption of the RRP rule. It must be treated as such. It is why we have addressed it so far down on the list as well.

The EPA says that the rule’s exemption involves companies addressing urgent safety and public health hazards and threats of significant property damage. Significant property damage is the last cause mentioned on the list.

This makes sense. The RRP was introduced as a safety measure rather than a measure instituted to ensure property value. It is why your argumentation should focus on the various safety aspects first.

It’s also important to mention that the EPA has specified the following on their website:

“Once the safety and public health hazards and threats of significant property damage have been addressed, the emergency provision can no longer be utilized.”

Those mentioned above sentenced show that the exemption intends to ensure health and well-being. It’s done by limiting lead exposure and other exposures that could cause health risks. Arguing significant property damage is a lot harder.

  • Make sure that you look out for EPA updates.

We encourage you to visit the EPA’s official page. Ensure that you stay up to date on the most current dates that you need to be aware of.

We strongly expect that the EPA will announce dates for when these exemptions will no longer be as broadly interpreted as is the case currently. As per the memorandum sent out on March 26, the EPA only assures that a week’s notice is given before the termination of special conditions.

  • Make sure that you can verify the date of your documentation.

Maybe you have chosen to use our template to justify why an emergency warrants you being non-compliant with the RRP. Take a photo of the printed-out documentation with proof of the date it was filled out.

Photos taken with modern phones will usually save information regarding when a photo was taken. It will show that you acted in good faith and didn’t simply fill out forms retroactively but did it when the work was being done.

  • Document reasons why compliance is not reasonably practicable.

This could be supported by the inclusion of information on worker shortages during the pandemic. The EPA’s memorandum has recognized that as being a possible problem currently.

  • Document steps taken to come into compliance at the earliest possible opportunity.

Show how you acted in good faith and tried staying compliant. If you had your RRP certification expire after Marcy 13, 2020, show how you continuously tried taking steps towards regaining compliance.

  • Document the steps taken to ensure proper safety measures were taken.

It is important to mention that the memorandum and emergency program based on these recommendations are worded very loosely. We can only recommend your document to ensure that you show an intent to live up to the usual requirements of the RRP. It includes the various safety measures typically required under the RRP rule.

The EPA has stated that they do not seek to fine people for violations if you can document that Covid-19 was the reason for non-compliance.

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