Protecting Wisconsin Homes and Families


 Debbi Conrad  |    May 06, 2010
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Lead-safe renovations 

Many homes and apartments built before 1978 have lead paint or varnish on the walls, woodwork, windows and floors. In homes built before 1950 there is a greater chance the paint contains lead. Lead can harm children. Children under six years old can easily be poisoned by dust or chips from lead paint. If they play near windows and other places with worn-out or damaged paint, they can get lead dust on their fingers and toys. When children swallow lead dust it can cause illness and lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

This serious danger first led to the lead-based paint disclosure rules that apply when a property built before 1978 is sold or rented, and now has led to the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule. Beginning April 22, 2010, renovation work, repairs and painting activities will be regulated when performed for compensation in a dwelling or child-occupied facility built before 1978 and it disturbs 6 square feet or more of paint per room, 20 square feet or more of exterior paint, or involves windows. This includes rental property owners, management companies, painters, carpenters, plumbers, etc.

Is this a state or federal rule?

Wisconsin’s RRP rule in Wis. Admin. Code ch. DHS 163 is administered and enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Wisconsin’s rule is based on the EPA rule. On October 20, 2009 the EPA authorized the DHS to administer and enforce the state rule in lieu of EPA administering and enforcing the federal rule in Wisconsin.

What training and certification are required to conduct regulated activities in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities?

Every regulated project requires at least one certified Lead-Safe Renovator to ensure compliance with the regulation, train uncertified workers and conduct final cleaning verification. This person must complete an accredited 1-day Lead-Safe Renovation training course and apply to the DHS for a Lead-Safe Renovator certification. For a list of approved trainers, visit www.dhs.wi.gov/lead/Training/index.htm.

Does the RRP rule apply to homeowners conducting remodeling activities on their own single-family residence?

No. The rule does not apply if the home is occupied solely by the owner and the owner’s immediate family. If an owner hires a contractor to perform renovation, repair or painting work on a pre-1978 home, then training and certification is required.

How is LBP defined?

The Wisconsin threshold at which paint is defined as LBP is lower than the EPA standard. Wisconsin defines LBP as 0.7 mg/cm2 lead in dried film of paint or 0.06% lead by weight (600 ppm). The EPA defines LBP as 1.0 mg/cm2 lead or 0.5% lead by weight (5,000 ppm). The DHS will recognize paint test kits that detect lead to Wisconsin standards, but there currently are no Wisconsin-recognized test kits available.

How does the RRP rule affect rental property owners?

Rental property owners who conduct renovation, repair or painting activities on their rental properties or who have employees who do this work must comply with the RRP rule. By April 22, 2010, a rental property owner or a property management company must become a certified Lead-Safe Company or hire only certified companies to do paint-disturbing work covered under the RRP regulation. The owner or management company must have at least one Certified Lead-Safe Renovator on staff or hire a Certified Lead-Safe Company that has a Certified Lead-Safe Renovator.

Property maintenance personnel and renovators who are not trained in lead-safe work practices risk exposing themselves and occupants to lead at the job site and exposing their own families by bringing lead dust home on their work clothes.

How do I find out more information on the RRP rule?

Visit www.dhs.wi.gov/lead/RenovatorRule/index.htm or see the NAR Lead Paint Renovation Rule Compliance Guide (includes Webinars, videos, FAQs and more) at http://www.realtor.org/government_affairs/lead_paint_main.

Carbon monoxide alarms 

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it is extremely hazardous and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced from the incomplete burning of fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not dangerous. However, if appliances are not working properly, are poorly vented or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Enclosed garages can be quickly engulfed in CO if automobiles are left idling inside. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves and other fuel-burning appliances.

CO is the most common cause of fatal poisonings. It’s strongly recommended that all homes be equipped with a CO detector. CO detectors function similarly to smoke detectors and are available at most hardware stores.

Wis. Stat. § 101.149 requires the installation of CO alarms in most residential buildings with three or more units that have fuel-burning appliances. The types of residential buildings subject to this law include tourist rooming houses (cabins), bed and breakfast establishments, and any public building used for sleeping or lodging, such as hotels, motels, condominiums, apartment buildings, dormitories, fraternities, sororities, convents, seminaries, jails, prisons, home shelters and community-based residential facilities. Hospitals and nursing homes are not included. Fuel-burning appliances include stoves, ovens, grills, clothes dryers, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, heaters and fireplaces.

The law required installation of CO alarms in most new residential construction beginning October 1, 2008; these alarms must be interconnected and continuously powered by the building‚Äôs electrical service and have a battery backup. For residential buildings existing prior to October 1, 2008, CO alarms were to be installed by April 1, 2010 in buildings with any type of fuel burning appliances. There is no mandatory type of power source for the alarms in these buildings, thereby permitting batteries, electrical outlet plug-ins or wiring to the building‚Äôs electrical service. Omission of CO alarms is allowed provided there are no attached garages, and there are no fuel-burning appliances or all fuel burning appliances are ‚Äúsealed combustion‚ÄĚ and are under warranty or annually inspected for CO emissions. For example, no CO alarms are needed if the building has electric heat and appliances and no attached garages.

The owner of a residential building shall install a CO detector in all of the following places:

  1. In the basement of the building if there is a fuel-burning appliance in the basement.
  2. Within 15 feet of each sleeping area of a unit that has a fuel-burning appliance (e.g., gas stove or fireplace). ‚ÄúSleeping area‚ÄĚ means the area of the unit in which the bedrooms or sleeping rooms are located. Bedrooms or sleeping rooms separated by another use area such as a kitchen or living room are separate sleeping areas but bedrooms or sleeping rooms separated by a bathroom are not separate sleeping areas.
  3. Within 15 feet of each sleeping area of a unit that is immediately adjacent to a unit on the same floor that has a fuel-burning appliance.
  4. Not more than 75 feet from the fuel-burning appliance in each room that has a fuel-burning appliance and that is not used as a sleeping area such as the kitchen, living room or mechanical room.
  5. In the hallway within 75 feet of the door to a unit that has a fuel-burning appliance in each hallway leading from the unit, except that if there is no electrical outlet within this distance, the CO detector shall be placed at the closest available electrical outlet in the hallway.

If a unit is not part of a multi-unit building, the owner need not install more than one CO detector in the unit.

The owner of a residential building shall reasonably maintain every CO detector in the residential building in the manner specified in the instructions for the CO detector. An occupant of a unit in a residential building may give the owner written notice that a CO detector in the building is not functional or has been removed by a person other than the occupant. The owner must repair or replace the nonfunctional or missing carbon monoxide detector within 5 days after receipt of the notice.

The recently-enacted Wis. Stat. ¬ß 101.647 will require CO detectors in ALL dwellings that have fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage effective February 1, 2011. This affects both existing and newly constructed owner-occupied or rented single-family or two-family dwellings. See ‚ÄúNew Law Will Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors in All Homes‚ÄĚ in the April 2010 edition of¬†Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine¬†at www.wra.org/WREM/Apr10/CarbonMonoxoideDetectorLaw.

For additional information, see the DHS Carbon Monoxide fact sheet at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/Air/fs/CO.htm and the CO alarms brochure at http://dsps.wi.gov/sb/docs/Sb-CommBldgsCoMultiBroch.pdf. 

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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