One-fifth of the roughly 50 remodelers contacted in 10 cities in a secret poll by Angie's List gave bad advice regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead-paint rule, the company says. As part of its effort to promote compliance, the company has stepped up efforts to exclude non-certified remodelers from its listings and identify companies that it knows do have certification.

The telephone survey, conducted in June and July and then reported online in September and in Angie's List's monthly magazine in October, involved calls to 200 remodelers, painters, window contractors, and hardware stores in 10 cities. All 150 pros were on Angie's List and had at least one review in the prior 12 months that involved painting.

Each time, the questioner posed as a potential customer who needed to have repainted a 1920s home that would be used by a 2-year-old child. Such a situation would suggest a need to invoke the EPA Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule, which requires that pros employee certain practices when working in conditions where there's a possibility that lead paint many be present.

"We wanted to find out what is really being communicated to consumers/homeowners," a spokeswoman for Angie's List told REMODELING in an email.

All told, 11% of those surveyed gave what Angie's List regarded as bad advice, but the results by group varied dramatically. "Hardware stores were the worst offenders, giving dangerous advice 47% of the time," Angie's List said. "Remodeling contractors gave dangerous advice 20% of the time; painters, 10%; and window contractors, 2%." Among the responses that Angie's List regarded as bad advice:

  • "Lead only harms you if you eat it."
  • "Just close the door; wear a mask."
  • "You might just be able to throw lead paint debris in the trash."
  • "The whole lead thing is very overblown unless your kids are chewing or gnawing on the windowsills."

Angie's List also rated as bad advice any suggestions that a person dry-scrape the area in question or use a heat gun. The 89% that didn't give bad advice delivered either what Angie's List rated as good advice, gave no advice at all, or had no response.
In her commentary in October's magazine for Angie's List members, company founder Angie Hicks said: "As a result of our reporting ... by the time you read this, any contractors our team contacted who remain uncertified will be excluded from member searches."

Asked to elaborate, the Angie's List spokeswoman told REMODELING: "We ask companies on Angie's List to attest to their compliance with trade licensing laws, as well as the EPA's RRP, and whenever a question about that compliance is brought to our attention we conduct an on-demand audit. For any contractor who performs this type of work and fails to provide proof of EPA certification, we exclude them indefinitely from category and keyword searches on the List and add a notice to alert Angie's List members. These companies also are prohibited from advertising on Angie's List. If companies earn their certification and we can confirm that, we will lift the exclusion for being non-certified and they'll have full rights as any other company on Angie's List."

In addition, Angie's List will include in company profiles a notice that a company has RRP certification, "so our members can more easily find companies that ARE certified," the spokeswoman added.

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