EPA Inspections Ongoing in Maine!

EPA Begins Effort to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Lead Paint in Lewiston/Auburn, Maine Area

BOSTON – EPA is beginning an effort to improve compliance with laws that protect children from lead paint poisoning by sending certified letters this month to about 400 home renovation and painting contractors, property management companies and landlords in and around Lewiston/Auburn, Maine.

epalawUnder the initiative, EPA will provide educational materials on lead paint rules to affected companies. EPA will also outline steps the Agency is taking to increase compliance on the part of these entities with the federal lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA’s RRP Rule became effective in April 2010.

“Children’s exposure to lead continues to be a significant health concern here in New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This is especially true for kids who live in underprivileged areas and other places where there is a large amount of older housing stock that hasn’t been renovated and lead paint has not been removed. Our initiative in Lewiston/Auburn is designed such that EPA will work closely with our local, state and federal partners to address a serious public health problem affecting children.”

EPA continues to prioritize resources at both the national and regional level to educate companies and inform the public about federal lead paint rules. EPA’s RRP Rule is designed to prevent children’s exposure to lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards resulting from renovation, repair and painting projects in pre-1978 residences, schools and other buildings where children are present. If lead painted surfaces are to be disturbed at a job site, the Rule requires individual renovators to complete an initial 8-hour accredited training course and the company or firm that they work for to be certified by EPA. These baseline requirements are critical to ensuring that companies take responsibility for their employees following proper lead safe work practices by containing and managing lead dust and chips created during such projects. Further, the Rule requires that specific records be created and maintained in order to document compliance with the law.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, which can cause lifelong impacts including developmental impairment, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavioral problems. Because New England has a lot of older housing stock, lead paint is still frequently present in buildings that were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned. According to the most recent data available from the Maine Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Lewiston/Auburn has the highest number of incidences in the state of children under the age of six with elevated blood lead levels.

morefinesFollowing outreach efforts in May, over the course of several weeks in June, EPA will conduct inspections of renovation, painting and property management companies in the area to assess compliance with the RRP Rule. EPA may also assess compliance with the Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule, which requires landlords, property management companies, real estate agencies, and sellers to inform potential lessees and purchasers of the presence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 housing. This rule ensures that potential tenants and home buyers are receiving the information necessary to protect themselves and their families from lead-based paint hazards prior to being obligated to rent or purchase pre-1978 housing. The inspections may be followed up with enforcement which may include the issuance of fines.

Enforcing lead paint notification and worksite standards helps to level the playing field for companies complying with the law, as well as helps to provide a safer and healthier environment for children. EPA is coordinating with many state and local agencies, including several municipal departments in both cities, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and several non-governmental organizations such as Healthy Androscoggin.

EPA engaged in similar efforts in the New Haven, Conn. area in 2014 and in the Nashua, N.H. area in 2015. As a result of these efforts, EPA has educated thousands of individuals either engaged in this type of work or impacted by it, settled numerous formal and informal enforcement actions, and levied fines against the most serious violators. Importantly, because of the compliance assistance provided, many renovation firms have stepped forward to become newly certified and have sent their workers to be trained.

For more information:

Although lead paint has been identified as the primary source of childhood lead poisoning, drinking water, soil, air, and consumer products are other potential sources of lead. Please visit this EPA website to help protect your family from exposures to lead: https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead

Need to renew your RRP certification?

The EPA is focused in Maine right now! Check out our website for a schedule of upcoming classes!

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Help Me Understand… — is this a solution in search of a problem?

Written by Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.

take_a_walk_150_clr_8169Let’s think about this.

Since I’m not actively engaged in brokerage on a daily basis, I take some extra steps to make certain I’m keeping current with “what’s going on in the business.” I know all too well the hazards created when class content and delivery aren’t in tune with the current environment.

One of those steps is to scan the media regularly and consistently. Recently there have been some headlines regarding action taken by the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) that are at best misleading. One I saw this morning claimed “CFPB makes clear lenders’ ability to share closing disclosure.” Actually, the CFPB has proposed some changes to TRID (TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule). Until those changes are adopted, nothing has changed. The original rules remain in place.

In layman’s terms, the current rules adopted last fall created a reluctance on the part of lenders to share Closing Disclosures (a detailed statement of the buyer/borrower’s costs) with third parties–including real estate licensees. I suspect this stemmed in part from a desire to protect borrowers’ privacy. That would seem to be noble goal. But it was a change that did not sit well with some licensees who had become accustomed to the lender sending the previous disclosure (called “the HUD”) to the licensees involved in the transaction.

Under the new rule, lenders were given strong confidentiality guidelines that actually go far beyond the issue of who gets the closing disclosure. Those guidelines increased the borrowers’ confidence that information about them and their transaction would remain confidential. Nothing, however, took away the borrower’s right to share that information with others.

Personally, I never understood why this created a problem for licensees. Under the new rule, the lender would send the closing disclosure to the borrower. The borrower would, if he or she wished, contact his real estate licensee and provide a copy for review and discussion. I informally polled some of my students and, while many admitted it felt like an extra step, no one reported a serious problem with the process. In exchange for what might be seen as an extra step, the buyer/borrower received additional protections and maintained responsibility for the the process. So the campaign to change this rule feels a bit like a solution in search of a problem.

Perhaps someone can help me understand why this change is necessary. The lines of communication between a real estate licensee and his or her client should be open and frequent. We say it often, “The agent (licensee) advises, the client decides.” Why would that not apply here? The information contained in a closing disclosure belongs to the client, not the licensee. This change might actually be seen as a power grab, taking away a borrower’s right.

We sometimes hear licensees “complain” that buyers and sellers do not accept enough responsibility for what happens in a transaction and are quick to blame the licensee when things go wrong. If that’s true, does it really make sense to take this step?

I haven’t looked at the specific language of the proposed rule changes, but a summary indicates the change will include (among other things) “guidance on sharing the disclosures with various parties involved in the mortgage origination process.” It seems to me that we already have that and we might think about what we’re doing and saying if we change that guidance.

OSHA Fines Painting Contractor

Read OSHA’s Regional News Release Herecertified

OSHA proposes a penalty of $121,880 for a Michigan company’s unsafe practices in exposing their workers to lead at a site in Danville, PA. The EPA is not the only organization who can fine your business if you are not lead certified.

Is your company updated on their lead certification? Are you looking for a local re-certification course? Let us know!

Downsizing Is Not for Everyone! — a guest post by Jack Falvey

From the blog of Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.

Jack is a longtime friend and colleague… one of the things I love about him is the way he shakes cages and challenges traditional thinking. The following piece is his Daily Investor Brief published by St Anselm College on December 14, 2015, challenging some of the traditional thinking often touted by the real estate industry.


Jack-F-Headshot

Jack Falvey

Just because everybody is doing it is no reason to do it! You’re allowed to be who you are and to plan your financial life as you please. “I’ll never have to cut the grass again!” is a poor reason for uprooting your life. Roots are worth a lot.

When the grass is cut by a condo association, you pay to have it done. You can pay to have your grass cut in the house in which you live. Think a little bit about the devil you know versus the one you don’t. Things change, and you may want big changes in your life at any time, but don’t let convention dictate your life.

In doing financial planning, your plan dictates your finances. If you want to fund a downsize move, so be it. Think through your goals and objectives, plusses and minuses, and then see what you can realistically finance. Your finances, of course, limit your plan, but get first things first. What do you want to do and why do you want to do it?

Many people live in the same place for many years and suffer no adverse consequences. Others have wanderlust and enjoy gypsy genes. Following children and/or grandchildren is not a bad strategy.  Think through your reasoning and then test the waters. What looks good in your imagination may not be ideal in practice. Then again, it might be far better than you ever imagined. Your reasons, whatever they may be, are the right reasons. Make sure they are your reasons.

Going home to the home you’ve lived in for forty or fifty years is not a bad place to go. Your investment in a home can also be an investment in a community. First it might be for schools. Next it could be for a religious congregation. Neighbors might become lifelong friends. All of this factors in. Next time you are cutting the grass, think about all this.


Jack Falvey is a widely published freelance business writer, contributing to Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News in the areas of sales, sales management, and marketing. He teaches professional sales and sales management at both University of Massachusetts Boston and at his alma mater, Boston College.

Falvey is currently a fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where he offers daily Investor Education Briefs.

What Worries Real Estate Buyers – – do you know what your clients are worried about?

Written by Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.

According to a recent study by Redfin, buyer’s worries have changed slightly. Of course, that makes sense because we all know the market changes constantly. Last year (2014) buyers were most worried about inventory. This year “prices” are in the number one spot. Actually, the worry seems to be more about prices rising and affordability becoming an issue.

Some will suggest that reflects an improving market with good news for sellers. Others will suggest that buyers are showing a lack of confidence in the general economy.

According to the survey of 3,500 buyers, the top five worries this year are:

  1. Prices (prices are rising or too high)
  2. Competition from other buyers
  3. Inventory (there aren’t enough houses to choose from)
  4. Selling my current home first
  5. Having enough for a downpayment

You might find it interesting to compare that with the top five worries last year. It will not take too much creativity to support your current opinion of the state of the market and the direction it’s taking. But you’ll have to rationalize some things. For example, the fourth worry of buyers last year was that mortgage rates might rise before they could buy–that didn’t make the list this year. Another concern last year that didn’t make the list for 2015 was “fatigue” — referring to buyers finding the process difficult and tiring.

Most know that all generalities are false. In this case, that’s especially true because “worries” are very personal. So while how those 3500 people felt is mildly interesting, real estate licensees should be much more focused on a much smaller number–the number of clients you are working with.

You want to know a lot about your client. Most of those things are basic and concrete. The questions you ask probably include things like, “What is your price range?” and “How many bedrooms?” and “How much land?”

Those are certainly important conversations. But why not ask “What are you worried about?” Some will say, “Nothing,” partly because they are overwhelmed with excitement and haven’t thought about the concerns. It might be tempting to accept that answer. But aren’t there some things a buyer should be worried about?

One of the saddest listings I ever took involved a couple in the middle of a divorce. The short version of their story was they visited Maine and fell in love with our great state. They spent the last few days of their vacation finding a real estate licensee and then a house. It was a very smooth and speedy transaction–their agent handled “everything” while they went home to pack. The realities started showing up after they were settled in their new home. One spouse was forced to return to their home state to find employment that wasn’t available in the vacation area they’d bought. The other found work, but it involved a long commute with resulting childcare and expense issues. Thus began the breakdown of the family. The home they purchased was not an “easy sell” so by the time they realized their mistake, the market was not in their favor.

A little “worrying” during the process might have made a world of difference in the outcome. Personally, I think the licensee who represented them in the purchase should have noticed there were some things they weren’t worried about and raised some of the issues they weren’t seeing.

Of course, licensees also find themselves representing worriers. Folks in the real estate business like to focus on “making it easy” and “getting to closing.” If that’s the case, remember that it’s easier to smooth the road if you locate the bumps and potholes. No matter how you cut it, a discussion of worries with clients (buyer or seller) just makes sense.

Cyber Fraud – an Emerging and Worsening Threat

Written by Patty Flowers. Patty Flowers is AVP for Investment Property Exchange Services (IPX1031®) and a Certified Exchange Specialist®. See her website.

Take Key Steps to Combat It

Patty Flowers

Patty Flowers

Simply put, cyber fraud is when credit and financial information is stolen online by a hacker and used in a criminal manner. What’s alarming is the rapid growth of detected cyber fraud incidents, as well as the financial costs associated with these events. This emerging threat has the potential to cause serious damage.

“Cybercrime is a clear, present, and permanent danger. While it’s a permanent condition, however, the actors, threats, and techniques are very dynamic.” — Tom Ridge, CEO of Ridge Global and first secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The long known scams of phishing emails, claims of lottery winnings, an inheritance from a long lost relative, or forwarding funds to Nigeria are consistently elevating to new and more deviant levels. More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet. The fraudsters are getting smarter and bolder and fraud attempts are approached with increased vigor. As an investor or someone directly or indirectly involved in 1031 Exchanges and real estate transactions, being aware and attentive is critically important to you and your clients’ funds and business interests.

For the many frauds that have succeeded, there have been many more near misses that have been caught before funds could be disbursed and potentially never retrieved. IPX1031® is aware of a number of such cyber fraud attempts. These attempts generally try to redirect (and ultimately steal) deposits, purchase funds, closing proceeds or commissions.

At IPX1031® we take these threats very seriously. Protection of investors’ hard earned funds, potentially their entire life savings – is of the utmost importance to us. As part of Fidelity National Financial, we have access to secure systems and industry professionals that may not be available to smaller entities. The security of your information is extremely important in protecting your assets. When you want the best, expect it from IPX1031®, a leader in what matters – safety, security and expertise.

Many individuals and businesses underestimate the threat online fraud poses to their profitability, cash flow and reputation. So don’t leave your data – and your profits – open to cyber criminals. Take some simple steps towards keeping your computers, your information and business secure. Reduce your vulnerability and you reduce your threat.

Here’s a few resources from the FBI and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) on measures you can take to protect yourself and your technology moving forward.

  1. FBI’s how to protect your computer
  2. FBI’s getting educated on Internet fraud

NCA’s Online Safety Guidance for the Public top tips:

  1. No bank or card issuer will contact you by email and ask you to enter all your personal and financial details online. If you receive a message like this, report it to your bank, then delete it
  2. If you get an email from an unknown source, do not open it and do not click on any attachments
  3. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date
  4. Never follow the messages from anti-virus software you encounter whilst on the internet. Only follow the anti-virus instructions from the software you have installed on your computer
  5. Install an anti-spyware package
  6. Always use a firewall
  7. Ensure that your software is up to date

NCA’s Common Cyber Threats

  1. Phishing: bogus emails asking for security information and personal details
  2. Webcam manager: where criminals takeover your webcam
  3. File hijacker: where criminals hijack files and hold them to ransom
  4. Keylogging: where criminals record what you type on your keyboard
  5. Screenshot manager: allows criminals take screenshots of your computer screen
  6. Ad clicker: allows a criminal to direct a victim’s computer to click a specific link

Students of Arthur Gary School Support Animal Refuge League!

GIANT thanks to all the students at Arthur Gary School of Real Estate! With your help we have donated $450.00 to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland! We are sponsoring a cat condo and a dog kennel for a year with your donations.

Shelli-Jo Pelletier and Jesse Mitchell take the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate donations to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

Office staff Shelli-Jo Pelletier and Jesse Mitchell take the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate donations to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland!

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