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This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Posts tagged Codes and Regulations.

Our blog has been inundated with hits on our two blog posts regarding the EPA's new lead paint regulations, Renovators Beware: Lead Paint Regulations Change in April and Lead Paint Regulations April 22: Are You Ready?.  We have fielded a number of questions from folks looking for information on classes and certification with the EPA.

I thought it would be helpful to provide a link where you can sign up for such training with The Training Network.  Just click on schedule of classes for information on specific dates and locations.  I would encourage folks to consider signing up for the classes held in Chantilly by the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association.  We are very active with that organization and they are doing excellent training and advocacy work for the home building industry.

USGS Shake Map Chilean EarthquakeIn the last several months, both Haiti and Chile have been rocked by significant earthquakes.  The difference between the tremendous devastation and loss of life in Haiti and the far lower impact in Chile, despite a much more serious earthquake, is at least in part the direct result of building codes and construction practices.

The earthquake in Haiti registered magnitude 7.0 and resulted in an estimated 200,000 people killed.  The Chilean earthquake registered magnitude 8.8, translating to 500 to 900 times more energy released than the earthquake in Haiti.  The death toll estimates in Chile are still preliminary and changing both up and down, but the current estimate appears to be 528 although it has fluctuated up and down from as high as 800.

Why the dramatic discrepancy?  Read more below the break ...

 

lead paintThe next wave of the EPA's lead paint regulations take effect on April 22.  These regulations will impose new training, certification, work practice and record keeping requirements on contractors performing renovations on structures built prior to 1978.

Reports that we are hearing indicate that the EPA's roll-out of the program has been less than clear.  Some people have struggled to find sufficient openings or available training classes.  Our friend Sean Lintow (@slsconstruction on twitter) reports that in some states, the state governments are taking over the certification process with EPA's blessing, throwing the validity of currently issued certifications into question.

A number of people have asked me specific, important questions which I would like to give my take on, which can be viewed below the break: 

Modular home beforeModular home construction presents significant potential improvements to home construction: significantly reduced construction time; less material waste; and reduced expense.  If not handled appropriately in terms of contracts and risk, modular homes can translate to a gigantic headache for both the designers, contractors, and the owner.

Last Thursday, Lisa Rein of the Washington Post wrote an article on mansions turning to modular construction to reduce time and costs.  The article caught my eye - while I have noticed this trend over the last 5 years or so, it was the first time I saw local mainstream press pick up on this.  My friend Jamie Baker Roskie at the always interesting Land Use Prof Blog picked up on the article and connected the thread towards local codes discouraging use of shipping containers as building materials.

Football PuntAfter much back and forth, the Soil and Water Conservation Board announced on January 14th that they voted to suspend their hotly debated changes to stormwater regulations to permit an additional 30-day comment period.  The stage was formally suspended on January 26, 2010 which means that the status will be stuck in suspension until a new round of comments opens from February 15 through March 17.

We reported on the both the initial regulations and later changes to the proposed regulations which eased some of their impacts on the home building industry.  The Home Builders Association of Virginia indicates that they mobilized significant response and opposition to even the later round of regulations.

Hand with MoneyRockville based contractor Hann & Hann will pay $600,000 plus the plaintffs' legal fees to settle a wage and overtime based class action suitAs reported in the Washington Post by Rubin Castaneda on January 30, 2010, Hann & Hann agreed to pay overtime plus 50% for every employee working with the company not paid overtime between May 8, 2006 and May 8 2008.

There are a couple important subtexts to this case and settlement.  First, reports describe the 200 plus employees and former employees as almost all Spanish speaking immigrants.  This naturally raises questions not only of immigration status, but also of whether the contractor was perceived as taking advantage of employees less able to defend themselves.  In this case, the employees not only had the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on the case, but also were represented by Arnold and Porter pro bono.

EPA Renovate Right Brochure

Owners, developers and builders working in the renovation arena beware: the EPA's new regulations on lead paint take effect on April 22, 2010.  The regulations are contained at Title 40, Part 745 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  There are some very important highlights:

Effective April 21, no firm may offer or perform renovations in "target housing" without certification (40 CFR 745.81). Target housing means any housing constructed prior to 1978, so renovators working in homes, apartments or condominiums built prior to 1978 need to take this seriously.

Internal Revenue Service Building DCAbuse of independent contractor status continues to get significant regulatory and legislative attention.  Critics of this practice argue that misclassifying employees as independent contractors is an unfair competitive advantage and robs federal and state governments of justly due employment related taxes.

On the federal level, there have been rumblings over the last year of not only stepped up scrutiny through both the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor, but also bills proposed in Congress during 2009 which would curtail the scope of current safe harbor provisions.  I received a note from Associated Builders & Contractors yesterday pointing to a recent new bill introduced by Sen. John Kerry which would rewrite existing safe harbor provisions and require all employers to obtain written documentation from the IRS as a precondition to independent contractor status.

USGBC Logo on GlassWading through the various layers of requirements, enticements, incentives and regulations that apply to green building can be overwhelming to anyone, let alone the uninitiated.  This process is made far more complicated by adding the layering of federal, state, and local government efforts in this field.

The United States Green Building Council has this effort very easy with regards to LEED related public policy searches.  USGBC has a search engine with multiple selectable criteria to sift through the oceans of regulations to find what you are looking for.  I cannot say the entire database is perfect, but I can say that it appeared that the Virginia state and local discussion was basically accurate, including the status of the green building ordinances in Arlington County, Fairfax County, and the City of Alexandria.

DC Metro SmithsonianThe Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Obama administration will propose taking over safety regulation of subways and light rail, including the regional Metro system.  Metro has been taking a regular beating in the press recently for safety concerns and its anemic response to those concerns.  Metro has apparently gone so far to frustrate efforts to investigate its safety procedures and efforts that it has barred independent monitors from walking along its subway tracks, even escorted by Metro employees, to observe its procedures in practice