Vineyard Real Estate Environmental Issues
With increased science comes increased
knowledge; therefore, more information becomes available
every day about potential home environmental problems. Martha's
Vineyard real estate buyers should be aware of such things
as water quality, radon, mold, lead paint, asbestos and
UFFI. The obvious way these problems are detected is from
a structural and systems home inspection. [Be sure to read
our article "Why
you need a Home Inspection"] Most homes that are
tested reveal no major environmental problems, but if a
problem is discovered, the key is to intelligently evaluate
the test information and know what to do to remedy the problem.
A structural home inspector is not generally capable of
rendering conclusive judgement or mitigation sollutions
for all environmental issues. However, the inspector may
be able to detect the existance of environmental problems
in which case we would consult with an expert in that particular
area for an opinion on how to proceed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) has a search tool that will provide you with access
to environmental data and awareness of environmental activities
such as the location of heightened pollution or hazardous
waste sites, the location of watersheds, or Ultraviolet
(UV) index forecasts for The
Community Where You Live.
Sorcecard.org can provide you with a
Report Card about all sorts of polution topics concerning
the air and water quality in your area.
NEW CARBON MONOXIDE LAW:
WHAT HOMEOWNERS NEED TO KNOW.
As of March 31, 2006, all homes in the
Commonwealth equipped with fuel burning equipment that produced
carbon monoxide or had indoor parking (a garage) adjacent
to living areas were required to have Carbon Monoxide detectors
installed. The law, and the regulations that implement it,
applied to ALL Martha's Vineyard homes and not just those
that are being sold. Then in January 2009, the Board of
Fire Prevention Regulation passed a new regulation titled
527 CMR 32.00: Carbon Monoxide Alarms which restricted the
use of ionization smoke detectors. The new regulation went
into effect on January 1, 2010 and by April 5, 2010 all
residential buildings sold or transferred within a certain
criteria had to comply.
Below are some frequently asked questions
What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced
in the home?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless,
poisonous gas that is lighter than air. Appliances fueled
with fossil fuels such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum
(LP gas), oil, kerosene, coal, and wood may produce CO.
The federal government estimates that over 500 people in
the United States die unintentionally every year from CO.
Thousands of people go to hospital emergency rooms for treatment
for CO poisoning.
As a Homeowner in the Commonwealth, what do I need
to do to comply with this new law?
You must install a carbon monoxide detector on
every level of your home, excluding unfinished basements,
attics and crawl spaces, but including habitable portions
of basements and attics in most residences. Detectors that
are installed on levels of the home which contain sleeping
areas must be placed within ten feet of the bedroom door;
therefore some homes may require more than one detector
on certain levels. The new regulation has added additional
requirements and restrictions to the law, such as only a
photoelectric smoke alarm will be allowed within 20 feet
of a kitchen or bathroom. The Mass.Gov website for the Executive
Office of Public Safety (EOPS) has a section with all sorts
of information pertaining to
Carbon Monoxide Safety.
What kind of Carbon Monoxide Detectors must I install
in my home & how should I install a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
The current law provides a choice to homeowners
to install either battery operated, plug-in with battery
back-up, low voltage system, wireless detectors, a combination
smoke/carbon monoxide detector, or hard-wired detectors.
These detectors must be in compliance with Underwriter Laboratories
(UL) standard 2034. The package the detector is sold in
will indicate whether it meets this standard. CO alarms
should be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Homeowners should remember not to install carbon monoxide
detectors directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances,
as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide
upon start-up. A detector should not be placed within twenty
feet of fossil fuel heating systems, kitchen cooking appliances
or in or near very humid areas such as bathrooms.
When considering where to place a carbon monoxide detector,
keep in mind that although carbon monoxide is roughly the
same weight as air (carbon monoxide's specific gravity is
0.9657, as stated by the EPA; the National Resource Council
lists the specific gravity of air as 1.00), it may be contained
in warm air coming from combustion appliances such as home
heating equipment. If this is the case, carbon monoxide
will rise with the warmer air and will be evenly dispersed.
Therefore, it is a misconception that the best location
for a CO alarm is close to the floor.
Note: There are specific requirements for combination
alarms, before purchasing one please review the requirements
of combination alarms with your local fire department. Like
its inspections for smoke detectors, the local fire department
is required to inspect each dwelling for compliance with
the carbon monoxide law before sale. To read the new regulation
as of 1/01/2010, follow this link: 527
CMR 32.00: Carbon Monoxide Alarms .
We plan to build a new home, are there additional
requirements for new construction? Are there any other laws
I should know about?
First of all, as I said before, consult with your
legal counsel to interpret what requirements are necessary.
The state building code will govern additional requirements
for new construction. The new updated regulation requires
hardwired carbon monoxide detectors for all new construction
or for homes who undergo substantial renovations, or in
new additions to older homes. More information about the
state building code may be obtained by reviewing the 9th
Edition of the Massachusetts Building Code 780 published June 8, 2018. Currently, there are certain
plumbing regulations which may require a hard-wired CO detector
to be installed with certain appliances. For more information
check with the plumber who completes your installation.
It is possible that your local city or town might have enacted
stricter requirements, therefore you should check with your
local fire department.
What are some of the Properties
affected by the new Regulation?
The determination as to which properties are affected by
the new Regulation requires looking at each case individually.
Therefore, it is best to consult with legal counsel to determine
the requirements for your specific property. Generally,
these are the types of properties impacted by the new Regulation:
1) Residential buildings under
70 feet tall and containing less than six dwelling units.
2) Residential buildings not substantially altered since
January 1, 1975, and containing less than 6 residential
3) All residential buildings sold or transferred after January
1, 2010, which are less than 70 feet tall, have less than
six units, or have not been substantially altered since
January 1, 1975.
Water quality is probably the environmental issue of most
concern to Martha's Vineyard real estate buyers. Typically,
a basic water quality (potability) test will check pH, water
hardness, the presence of fluoride, sodium, iron and manganese,
plus bacteria such as E-coli. Additionally, water may be tested
for the presence of lead or arsenic. More information on this
subject can be had by contacting The
Dukes County Water Testing Laboratory.
Another common environmental concern
with homes on Martha's Vineyard is Radon.
What the heck is Radon?
It's a radioactive gas. It's colorless, odorless
and undetectable by most humans.
why do I have to worry about it?
Over a period of years, exposure to Radon gas can have a
significant and detrimental effect on your health. Radon
is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United
here to learn more about Radon)
We are hearing a lot about mold these days. Molds produce
tiny spores that reproduce. Mold spores waft through the indoor
and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp
spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever
they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that
can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive
moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often
occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered
or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all
mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to
control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. Martha's
Vineyard is generally a moist climate because it’s an
Island surrounded by water. Most homes employ dehumidifiers,
especially in basements and crawlspaces, and at a minimum
from July through September. Molds can trigger asthma episodes
in sensitive individuals with asthma. I have a very sensitive
nose for mold, and when I smell it I stop and turn around.
Mold in a basement, once it turns 'black' and gets airborne
will migrate to floors above. Remediation can be very costly,
so prevention is the key. For further information: "A
Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home," - Environmental
Martha's Vineyard homes built before 1978 are pretty certain
to contain lead based paint both inside and outside. Look
at all those beautiful antique Captain's Houses that grace
our down Island towns. Many of them have been de-leaded,
but generally if the lead based paint is in good condition,
not cracking or peeling, it is not a hazard. If the condition
is hazardous, the paint will need either to be removed or
encapsulated in such a manner so as to eliminate the hazard.
This can be a very costly process so make sure you investigate
it thoroughly. The
National Lead Information Center (NLIC).
Under Under Massachusetts and Federal law, and as stated
as follows on the CHILDHOOD
LEAD POISONING PREVENTION PROGRAM (CLPPP) PROPERTY TRANSFER
LEAD PAINT NOTIFICATION package, Form 94-3, “This
form is to be signed by the prospective purchaser before
signing a purchase and sale agreement or a memorandum of
agreement, or by the lessee-prospective purchaser before
signing a lease with an option to purchase for residential
property built before 1978, for compliance with federal
and Massachusetts lead-based paint disclosure requirements.”
Sound clear to you? I believe the wording has led to some
confusion and oversight on the part of real estate licensees.
That does not mean that the real estate licensee merely
hands the Buyer a blank form; the Seller portion has to
have been filled out by the Seller first.
If a Buyer is preparing to make an ‘Offer
To Purchase’ for a house constructed prior to 1978,
that Offer is a legally binding contract, as is the ‘memorandum
of agreement’ associated with foreclosure purchase
and sales and will legally obligate the Buyer to the terms
of the purchase agreement. Therefore, the Buyer must have
received CLPPP Form 94-3 prior submitting the Offer To Purchase
with the Seller portion completed and signed by the Seller.
The Buyer and the buyer’s agent will then complete
the Purchaser’s or Lessee Purchaser’s Acknowledgement
portion and the Agent’s Acknowledgement portion of
the form and then return it simultaneously with their Offer
To Purchase to the Seller or the seller’s Agent.
A question that comes up frequently
about the signing of the Lead Paint disclosure form is, when
someone is buying a home, is it OK for the buyer to sign a
blank lead paint form and submit it with the offer?
The answer is, no it is not. The lead paint form must be completed
and signed by the seller and the listing broker before
it is signed by the buyer. The purpose behind the law is to
ensure that the seller has disclosed any information he may
have, or lack thereof, regarding the presence of lead paint
in the premises. The buyer’s signature on the form acknowledges
receipt of that disclosure by the seller. When a buyer signs
a blank form he is incorrectly acknowledging a disclosure
he has not actually received yet.
Furthermore, it is clearly stated in
the Offer to Purchase, under Representations and Acknowledgments,
when the purchase involves a house built prior to 1978,
the real estate licensee is responsible for providing the
Buyer with the Lead Paint disclosure form. This is a disclosure
of condition that the Seller is making and the Buyer is
acknowledging. Failure to comply is an actionable offense.
There is also an EPA pamphlet,
Your Family From Lead In Your Home, that must also have
be given to the Buyer prior to offering an agreement that
will legally obligate the Buyer.
Here is a Q&A that I have adapted
from an NAR publication. See how you do.
Question: Sellers and
Lessors must comply with the federal lead-based paint disclosure
regulations for "target housing," which is residential
property constructed prior to what year?
The federal lead-based paint disclosure regulations apply
to residential sale or lease of properties built before
Question: In a residential sale transaction
subject to the federal lead-based paint disclosure regulations,
the disclosure requirements must be satisfied by whom?
Answer: Sellers and any listing agents
they hire to market the property.
Sellers, as well as any listing agents hired by the sellers
to market the property, must comply with the federal lead-based
paint disclosure requirements. The regulations require buyer's
agents to comply if they are compensated by the sellers
or seller's agents, but not if they receive no compensation
from the sellers or listing brokers.
Question: Almost all
of the provisions of the federal lead-based paint disclosure
regulations call for lead-based paint disclosures to be
made to both purchasers and lessors of target housing. Which
provision of the federal regulations requires that the following
information be disclosed only to purchasers?
about the opportunity to have the property tested for lead-based
Sellers (or their agents) must inform purchasers that they
have a right to a “Risk Assessment” period of
up to 10 days to have the property tested for lead-based
paint hazards, although sellers also may agree to waive
or shorten that time period. This right to have the property
tested for lead-based paint hazards does not apply to lessees
in lease transactions. On the Disclosure
of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint
Hazards the requirements set forth in A, B, and D apply
in both sales and lease transactions.
Question: The federal
lead-based paint disclosure regulations require that sellers
(or their agents) provide lead-based paint disclosures to
purchasers and lessees in what time frame?
Answer: Before the
purchaser or lessee is obligated under a contract for sale
Purchasers or lessees must receive the lead-based paint
disclosures before they become obligated under a contract
for sale or lease, which generally occurs when the contract
or lease is signed.
Question: The federal
lead-based paint disclosure regulations require sellers
(or their agents) to provide to purchasers a lead-based
paint information pamphlet published by which agencies?
Answer: EPA/HUD, or
by a state or local health agency that contains comparable
information approved by EPA/HUD.
Sellers (or their agents) must distribute the "official"
EPA/HUD pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family From
Lead In Your Home”, or a comparable one prepared by
a state and approved by the EPA/HUD.
Question: In addition
to providing purchasers or lessees with the lead- based
paint information pamphlet, what other lead-based paint
disclosures regarding a residence must sellers (or their
agents) also provide?
Answer: Any known
lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, as well as
copies of all available records or reports regarding lead-based
paint or lead-based paint hazards.
Only known lead-based paint or lead-based paint
hazards, and all records and reports of lead-based paint
or hazards related to the property being sold or leased,
must be provided.
Question: The lead-based
paint "Warning Statement" prescribed in the federal
disclosure regulations and required to be included in sales
contracts and leases reminds purchasers/lessees that properties
built prior to 1978 may have lead-based paint present and
reminds them of the health hazards associated with lead-based
paint, especially to children and expectant mothers. It
reminds sellers/landlords of their duty to provide information
about lead-based paint hazards affecting the property. Can
this Warning Statement be revised?
Answer: The Warning
Statement may not be revised.
Question: Are existing state or local lead-based paint requirements
and disclosure obligations preempted by the federal lead-based
paint disclosure regulations?
Answer: They are not
preempted by the federal lead-based paint disclosure regulations.
Furthermore, they are in full force and effect notwithstanding
the federal regulations.
The federal regulations expressly state that nothing in
them relieves sellers, lessors, or agents from complying
with any and all state or local laws, ordinances, codes,
or regulations governing notice or disclosure of lead-based
paint or lead-based paint hazards.
Question: Do all residential
properties built prior to 1978 have to comply with the federal
lead-based paint disclosure regulations?
Answer: No. Properties
sold at foreclosure need not comply.
Foreclosure sales of residential property are exempt from
the federal lead-based paint disclosure regulations, but
a subsequent resale by the purchaser in a foreclosure sale
is not exempt. Housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities
is exempt unless any child younger than 6 years
old resides or is expected to reside there. Short-term rentals,
such as vacation rentals, are exempt, but only if they are
for a period of 100 days or less. Lease renewals on the
same terms and conditions also are exempt, but only if the
disclosure requirements had been previously satisfied, such
as at the time when the property was initially leased.
Question: What are
the penalties for failure to comply with the federal lead-based
paint disclosure regulations?
Answer: The penalties
include both civil penalties of as much as $11,000 per violation
and also up to three times the actual damages to any person
injured as a result of the violation. But a violation does
not affect the validity of the underlying real estate transaction
in addition to the financial penalties. A violation of the
disclosure requirements can't affect the underlying real
estate sale or lease, or any deed, mortgage, or other instrument
involved in the transaction.
And here is another published information
piece that appeared in the Bay State Realtor®
magazine. This one might
be easier to digest.
Lead Paint Transfer Form, Little Things Mean (and Cost)
Published 11/2/2011 in MAR Bay State
While the Massachusetts Property Transfer
Lead Paint Notification and
Certification Form has been around for years, it is surprising
how many experienced and well-meaning agents make mistakes
in completing this form.
Mistakes may be simple, honest errors,
but the consequences can be expensive: under federal law,
sellers and real estate agents who fail to meet the requirements
for compliance can face a civil penalty of $1,000 under
state law and $10,000 under federal law per violation. In
fact, there have been instances where personnel from HUD
and the EPA have conducted audits of brokers’ files
and found them to be lacking in terms of compliance requirements.”
The following are a few helpful tips
for completing the form to avoid problems down the road.
When you get the listing, get
the lead form signed, too.
Arguably the easiest and best time to get the lead paint
form completed by the seller is when they are signing the
listing agreement. No broker should consider a file to be
complete on a transaction for a home built before 1978 unless
it has the Property Transfer Form completed and signed by
the seller. Virtually all MLS’s in Massachusetts now
allow participants to upload documents when the new listing
is placed in the MLS. This makes the completed form accessible
to all MLS members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Initial where it says, “Initials,”
One of the things that the field staff from the federal
government looks for in the “in-office” audits
of a firm’s closed transactions is compliance with
the specifics of the form. This means that sellers “check”
the boxes that are applicable to them and buyers and agents
initial the sections applicable to them. It also means if
lead inspections are done on the property, they are attached
as well. Remember— failure on these simple issues
can cost the firm thousands.
The agent must inform the buyer
and seller of their obligations under the lead paint law.
The form also requires brokers to tell sellers of their
obligations for disclosure and notification and verbally
inform buyers of their obligations to bring a property into
compliance if a child under the age of six resides there.
The agent working with the seller is expected to inform
the seller and sign the form for that purpose; the agent
working with the buyer, and thus verbally informing them
of their responsibilities, must sign for that purpose. If
one agent does both jobs (sells their own listing without
a co-broker), then only the one agent’s signature
would be correct.
Don’t forget the address.
You would be surprised how many agents forget to do this!
“Compliance with the requirements of the lead paint
form may not be particularly time consuming, but the consequences
for not completing these
steps can be.”
PAINT RENOVATION, REPAIR AND PAINTING RULE:
As of February 17, 2016, the EPA finalized new provisions
to the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule and Federal
law is in effect that requires all Martha's Vineyard home
contractors engaged in renovation repair or paint projects
disturbing more than a 6-foot area previously painted with
lead-based paint to be certified and licensed. Here is a
link to the Lead-based
Paint Programs Amendments. Renovation Contrators must
follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination
including containing the work area, minimizing dust and
thoroughly cleaning up the work area. You
can learn more about lead paint hazards and safeguards by
going to the EPA's Lead Awareness Program. And here
is a listing of the current Deleading
contractors in Massachusetts.
PAINT RPR UPDATE:
House Appropriations Committee
Votes to Block EPA Lead Paint Regulations
On July 13, 2011, the House Appropriations
Committee approved the 2012 budget for the Department of
Interior and the EPA, sending the bill to the full House
for consideration. During the bill’s consideration,
the Committee voted to add a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
supported amendment by Rep. Rehberg (R-MT), to prohibit
the implementation of controversial lead paint Renovation,
Repair and Painting (RRP) rules until the EPA meets its
obligations under the statute and provides the requisite
information and equipment for businesses to comply. The
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, along with a broad coalition
of regulated industry sectors, sent a letter to the House
Appropriations Committee supporting this Amendment.
Asbestos was used in many types of insulation and other building
materials in Martha's Vineyard homes built more than 30 years
ago, Only when asbestos is brittle and flaking, releasing
fibers into the air, does it need to be removed, repaired
or encapsulated by a professional contractor specializing
in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good
repair, and not releasing fibers, it poses no hazard and can
be left alone. Again, this can be very costly so investigate
it thoroughly. The
EPA has lots of information about Asbestos In Your Home for
New England residents here.
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined
throughout the world. Vermiculite was used as an attic insulation
material throughout New England, but to what extent has not
been determined. In the United States, active vermiculite
mining operations are in South Carolina and Virginia. W.R.Grace
owned and operated a vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. Much
of the vermiculite from this mine was used in the company's
Zonolite attic insulation, a product that the company sold
from 1963 to 1984 when its sale by the company was discontinued.
The Libby mine was unusual because the area also included
a natural deposit of tremolite asbestos. As a result, much
of the vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with
tremolite asbestos. Protect
Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation
During the 1970s, many homeowners had urea-formaldehyde foam
insulation (UFFI) installed in the wall cavities of their
homes as an energy conservation measure. However, many of
these homes were found to have relatively high indoor concentrations
of formaldehyde soon after the UFFI installation. Few homes
are now being insulated with this product. Studies show that
formaldehyde emissions from UFFI decline with time; therefore,
homes in which UFFI was installed many years ago are unlikely
to have high levels of formaldehyde now. I have found very
few homes on Martha's Vineyard with UFFI and with the passage
of time this has practically become a non-issue today and.
EMF stands for Electro Magnetic Field. These magnetic fields
can naturally occur or may be created by any electrical source.
Since virtually all houses use electricity in some way, most
everyone is in a varying EMF field created by natural sources
and our own use of electric household devices. In general,
the strength of the EMF field decreases by the square distance
(I.E.: At double the distance from the source the field is
reduced to one fourth and at truiple the distance the field
is reduced at a ninth of its original strength). Here is an
example: When a microwave is operating it generates between
200 and 300mG. However, at about 2 feet away from the microwave,
the field drops down to about 2mG. An average overall EMF
field reading in a house is about 0-2 mG but it will spike
near the electric meter and the electric panels, as well as
by a microwave or any personal electronics.
are always leary of properties in close proximity to overhead
electric transmission trunk lines and for years properties
abutting those utility easements have been considered stigmatized.
Although it is true that testing will show elevated levels
under the electric transmission lines or near transformers,
those levels fall off rapidly at the edge of the utility
ROW. Some inspectors have reported that once they were about
100 feet outside the utility ROW they did not experience
Home owner's can take practical measures
to reduced their EMF exposure in the home by being aware
of the sources of electricity and locating furniture like
beds, reading chairs, etc. away from the electrical source.
By that I mean the wall where electricity enters the house
(look for the location of your electric meter and electric panel).