Seismic Retrofits of Apartments – Beware of Asbestos & Lead Regulators

The first step in the retrofit process is having us inspect the building(s) for asbestos and lead. We can inspect just the areas to be disturbed by the retrofit work quickly and at low cost. This is all very routine, but is mandatory, as there are numerous regulations and regulators involved.

On 5/20/2016, Steven Harrison with the City of Los Angeles stated: “Should your seismic retrofit project require a disturbance of materials suspected to contain or known to contain lead and or asbestos, you would be required to do testing and supply copy of the results at any point prior to or during the project.” This is part of the mandatory Tenant Habitability Plan needed to obtain a seismic retrofit permit.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, under an agreement with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates asbestos using their Rule 1403. It requires asbestos surveys and notification to SCAQMD prior to any renovation or demolition involving over 100 square feet of materials, even if no asbestos is present. SCAQMD refers violations to the EPA. SCAQMD may arrive unannounced.

EPA and OSHA may levy fines as high as $37,500 per day and violators may also be sent to federal prison. Charles Yi of Los Angeles is a good example, as he went from being owner of a 204-unit apartment complex to serving four years in federal prison. Cal-OSHA, CDPH, Los Angeles County, and City Inspectors may also levy fines and seek jail sentences. Owners with simple paperwork violations of lead regulations have been made to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on removal work. Few owners are proud of being caught, so many keep it secret.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulate asbestos and lead by requiring specific training and detailed procedures. OSHA and Cal-OSHA regulate work with all materials containing more than zero asbestos.
The regulations require that all asbestos removal work for seismic retrofits be conducted within regulated areas, with all of the related requirements for demarcation, signs, respirators, and so forth. All asbestos work performed within regulated areas must be supervised by a “Asbestos Contractor-Supervisor,” as defined in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act signed by President Reagan, 40 CFR 763.

For apartment buildings built prior to 1978, federal EPA, OSHA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Cal-OSHA regulations require that all paint be assumed to be lead-based paint unless a properly trained and State certified (licensed) environmental consultant has tested it and found otherwise. The California Department of Public Health and EPA certify (license) inspectors and contractors and have very detailed requirements for notifications and other procedures.

Los Angeles County prohibits lead-based paint which is peeling, flaking, or chipped or on a surface which may be chewed, ingested, or inhaled in dwellings inhabited by a child under seven years of age.

We are a landlord owned company in our 25th year of helping people stay out of trouble and have earned our reputation as a provider to top-quality services at highly competitive prices. We’d much prefer more education and less regulation, but all of us have to deal with the current reality. Please contact us to discuss inspecting your buildings. Kindly visit our web site to see some of our apartment industry magazine articles: http://masekconsulting.net/news/

Information on laws and regulations is provided as a convenience, not as a substitute for proper legal advice and review of the entire text of the applicable laws and regulations.